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Arlington Police Chief Rescinds ‘Quota’ Memo

by ARLnow.com March 20, 2012 at 11:17 am 16,699 111 Comments

(Updated at 11:45 a.m.) Arlington County Police Chief M. Douglas Scott has rescinded a controversial memo that seemingly imposed a quota system for traffic tickets and parking citations on the county’s patrol officers.

Scott says the memo, which he saw for the first time yesterday after television station WUSA 9 broke the story, was a “mistake” that has “embarrassed” rank and file police officers. A new memo Scott sent out this morning officially rescinds the March 1 memo, entitled “Proactivity Expectations 2012.”

“As a result of a news story, it became clear to me the public believed the memorandum was calling for traffic violation, parking violation and criminal arrest averages that could best be construed as ‘quotas,'” Scott wrote. “The Arlington County Police Department does not support a quota system with regard to enforcement efforts. Our officers are expected to perform their duties with the utmost professionalism and courtesy and even the insinuation that we are supporting a quota system… goes against the core values of this organization.”

Scott says there would be no disciplinary action taken against the two patrol commanders who issued the memo. At a press conference in front of police headquarters in Courthouse this morning, Scott suggested that the memo was well-intentioned but sent the wrong message.

“I do feel that most employers have performance expectations for their employees,” Scott said. “And I do believe the public believes that it’s reasonable for us to have performance expectations for our officers. However, citing specific squad averages, benchmarks or targets leads to confusion about quotas. We take this issue seriously… we do not have quotas.”

Scott added that the part of the original memo that discussed disciplinary action for officers who didn’t meet performance targets was a “mistake” and part of the reason he rescinded it.

Update at 1:45 p.m. — Arlington County has posted a video of this morning’s press conference, as seen below.

  • Thes

    Great work, ArlNow. Thank you for improving our community with your good reporting.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      I agree. Great job, ArlNow!

    • D'oh!

      I think you mean WUSA 9.

      • Ramen

        I think he means responsible police officer who leaked the information to WUSA 9.

    • Great reporting. I’m skeptical, however, that the quotas won’t just be kept out of writing from now on.

      • Rodney King

        Yes, that is exactly what they’ll do. It’s pretty transparent.

    • Crab

      Glad that this story got leaked out. I hope our friends in Richmond also learn about this renegade activity in Arlington and do some investigating. I can see more punitive legislation or funding maneuvers to bring Arlington to heel for abusing their power.

      • Harry

        I don’t know what you’ve been reading but Arlington has few friends in Richmond, though the residents of Southside Virginia would like to thank Arlington taxpayers for their PRISTINE roads!

  • yup


  • yup


    • WeiQiang


  • Ramen

    So, just pretend it never happened?

    Sounds like a lot going on within the department and a little of the dirty laundry got leaked. Those two patrol commanders have some friends in high places, too.

  • T.G.E.0.A….

    Now the quotas will be verbally disseminated

    • j


  • Chris

    This is a joke. ACPD has an Unwritten quota law. Every police officer, detective an veteran of the police force has always stated they had to (x) amount of tickets every month or they were in “trouble” with their Sargent. Curious though if there is no quota, why do the number of tickets written each month increase at months end. I have no real proof of this yet, but it must be public knowledge. An investigation should be issued as to stop using the police and bill collectors for the county and state. Remember this isn’t just about the “safety” of the residents, it’s about revenue. From parking tickets, to DUI arrests. Arlington didn’t get sticking rich playing by the rules.

    • Brian

      They come after anyone who owns a car instead of doing the right thing and raising taxes. It seems like a cowardly thing to do.

      • Zoning Victim

        Okay, let’s not get carried away. We certainly don’t want police officers feeling compelled to arrest or ticket someone over some stupid quota, but we don’t want people speeding or running red lights, either. The “coming after everybody who owns a car” line is a bit much unless they write you a ticket for something you didn’t do.

        • BlueLoom


      • Zuzu

        They aggresively ticket and increase taxes. You just rent so you can’t tell the difference. You don’t have it as bad as I do.

    • Generic

      Most of the reason you see more activity at the end of the month is generally the guys that work overtime enforcement for speed and read lights. They are given 10-20 hours a month to work whenever they want, and typically those guys procrastinate until the end of the month.

      • Generic

        Of course that should be “red”.

      • No Bike

        I think red light & speeding overtime is dumb, cops should do it as part of their work day. Do they have to write a certain number of tickets in that 10-20 hours cause I think that might just be a quota.

  • DSS10

    He has hurt the integrity of the police force he should have resigned.

    Let’s hear it for being responsible for your actions!

    • Josh S


  • SouthArlJD

    He ought to be fired for using a word like “Proactivity”. What the hell is that?

    • Wurds hard
      • mick way

        I hear you South. It’s still a crap word that dates to only 1933.

        The opposite of active is reactive and vice versa. Two perfectly good words. Pretty much proactive has become “super-duper active” or some such nonsense.

        One of those words marketing people, pointy-haired managers and apparently patrol commanders adopted to make them sound smarter.

        Now let’s discuss the misuse of “impact.”

        • Sam

          Proactive and active have very different meanings. Saying “proactive” is a crap word because active is the opposite of reactive is like saying “easy” is a crap word because soft is the opposite of hard.

          Yes, active IS the opposite of reactive. But it has a different meaning than proactive.

  • SouthArlJD

    I find it ludicrous that anyone thinks this solves the problem. I’ve been getting cops to admit to a quota policy there since at least the early 90s.

    • Ali

      My dad once got apologized to by a Delaware statey because they said they had to give him a ticket because of quotas.

      • Tabs

        I had a similar experience in Delaware. He was sooo polite (and handsome).

    • B-Rad

      And what have you been doing to expose this terrible practice since the early 90’s?

  • SomeGuy

    In other words, “We’d like to publicly rescind this memo until the controversy dies down, after which we will privately implement our quota system in a more subtle fashion that does not provide evidence of it.”

    • Ticket Victim

      Yup. This won’t change anything.

  • steve

    “Proactivity Expectations” is the same phrase a California police department used as a euphemism for quotas in 1998 — hard to believe it was a randomly created phase. Link:


  • Plunkitt of Clarendon Blvd

    Violated one of the first commandments of bureaucracy…..Thou shalt not compromise deniability with written documents.

  • Really

    You know there is going to be a witch hunt to find out who let the secret memo to Ch 9. God bless the whistleblower that brings bs policies like this out to the light of day.

  • novasteve

    One of the great ironies in life is that it’s illegal for the public to lie to the police, but the police are allowed to lie at will to suspects and the public.

    • Tumblebum

      If it was illegal to lie to the police 75% of the public would be in lock up. Fact is, with the criminal element, lying to the police is done when the truth would do them better.
      It is against the law to lie to a federal agent if first sworn in.

    • Zuzu

      I do see a lot of double standards with the cops. Cops speeding to make roll call; cross a double yellow line to prevent from doing a U turn when going to the bank to get money while on duty. They don’t follow up on requests to them but you immediately get extorted into losing your house or job is you don’t pay up.

  • TuesdaysChild

    What a surprise, No disciplinary action agaist the writers of the quota policy!.

  • JohnB

    Yup, this is exactly what everyone expected them to say. But does anyone really expect the practice to change? No. Who here is going to submit the FOIA request to see the number of parking/traffic tickets issued per officer/month.

    • Zoning Victim

      Since you have to pay for the county’s costs to pull the documents together and copy them for you and compile the information yourself, I elect you; haha.

      • FrenchyB


  • novasteve

    Well its either quotas or speed cameras. Which do you prefer?

  • Runaway Train

    It’s laughable that so many people are appalled over this. If you don’t speed, this doesn’t effect you. Try this argument next time you get pulled over for speeding: “No officer it’s not my fault, uh, it’s yours for having a quota to meet”.
    When I got pulled over two years ago it was because I was doing 45 in a 30. Cops are looking for people traveling >10 mph or more than the posted speed limit. I’m not checking my rear view mirror for 10 minutes after an ACPD officer clocks me at 35 in a 30 mph zone. Pay your ticket and get on with your life.

    • DSS10

      Its laughable that you are not appalled over this. Not only are they talking about parking tickets and speeding ticks but also arrests and DWI’s. Loosing your licence or getting a DWI can cause you to loose your job (worse yet your clearance) and can prevent you from getting a good paying job (companies run both a criminal background check and a credit check when reviewing candidates even for retail jobs). For the policeman making an arrest or trying to manage a criminal situation he will have to deal with people not complying with his instructions or being belligerent because they just believe that he is “filling his quota.”

      • TCE

        Gee I hope you aren’t suggesting you should get out of a DWI just because you think he’s filling a quota… either you’re drunk or you’re not… if you are then you better expect the fall out, quota or not.

        • SomeGuy

          Feeling pressure to fill a quota might make an officer more likely to harass drivers (e.g., stop them without good reason) in a fishing expedition to meet his monthly DUI/DWI quota.

          Is it hard for you to imagine that human nature might cause a human police officer to resort to unethical behavior?

          • TCE

            Then I guess you shouldn’t drive so erratically. But trying to use the excuse that you shouldn’t be ticketed or arrested because of a quota is just as bad as an officer using a quota to ticket someone that’s done nothing wrong. Any policy of harassing innocent people wouldn’t last long in this county full of complainers… 🙂

          • TooEasy

            So checkpoints are aimed at erratic drivers?? Please open your purse for inspection at the county fair.

      • spelling jerk

        Don’t drive drunk and you won’t “loose” your “licence” either.

        Also, don’t spell drunk.

        • SomeGuy

          Likewise, don’t incentivize your officers to find criminals where there aren’t any, and the citizens they serve are more likely to respect them and their judgment.

          • drax

            Of course.

            I’m not too worried about cops finding drunks who aren’t drunk, since there’s a very objective test (a breahthalyzer) to determine BAC.

          • SomeGuy

            Yes, drax, breathalyzer readings are objective. However, administration of a breathalyzer test can influence those objective readings:

            Depends on what the test administrator’s goal is.

          • Alex

            IF the cop uses it. I was arrested for ‘public-intoxication’. A simple Breathalyzer test would have helped my case so the officers decided to arrest me without any kind of tests at all.
            I was kept in a cage for about 10 hours and then was charged $150 to get out (non-refundable, of course). They even wanted to charge another $35 for my stay in their cage!
            This was in Ash-Flat, Arkansas; But I’m sure this is typical police behavior in many cities and states in this Nation and World-wide.

      • Runaway Train

        @ DSS10. You’re praying on people’s fears essentially using the slippery slope argument. You’ve asserted that some event must inevitably follow (in this case innocent people being accused of crimes they did not commit or being unwarrantedly harassed) from another (the validity of a quota system) without any argument for the inevitability of the event in question.
        The system has checks and balances. If I am accused of a DUI, the officer is going to have to prove they used a calibrated breathalyzer, which is all the evidence they need against me in court. Cops tampering with evidence or embellishing the facts is not a rationale fear that I’m worried about. Like you stated yourself, “Let’s hear it for being responsible for your actions!” Pay the clerk on the way out, next.

      • Jameson

        How does one ‘loose’ a job or a license?

    • TCE

      +1 … exactly… breaking the law is breaking the law… doesn’t matter if you’re one mph over or twenty… quota or no quota does not impact that. All the people that seem to want just a warning for violating the law are the problem, not the quota.

      When I speed I’m fully aware I may get a ticket… I don’t stop to think is it the end of the month and they may out to get me because they’ve got a quota… nor do I think at the beginning of the month I’m more likely to get away with it. If I’m caught, it’s my fault not his for writting me the ticket. Live with it… stop trying to blame someone else for your illegal actions…

      now if they were writting tickets for something you DIDN’T do you’d have a real argument.

      • SomeGuy

        TCE, your last sentence is the whole crux of this debate. Quotas could encourage officers to make criminals out of innocent people, particularly in instances where there’s no evidence except the officer’s word against the accused.

        • drax

          Everyone understands that quotas encourage cops to write tickets where nobody committed a crime.

          But now we have a herd of yahoos complaining that quotas caused cops to write them tickets when they DID commit a crime.

          • TCE

            Totally agree that it would be criminal for cop to write tickets for a none crime. But everyone here seems to want a pass when they do something wrong and they’re too quick to blame quotas instead of their own fault for breaking the law.

          • SomeGuy

            Please note that I have not done that. Nor have I excused anyone for “only going 3 MPH over the limit,” etc. But I also don’t assume that cops can do no wrong. With their authority comes great responsibility, and I think we should all expect better of them than this idiotic quota system.

            It concerns me that the memo in question would still be policy if it weren’t for the brave person who leaked it.

      • Joe M.

        “Breaking the law is breaking the law” is true, except for the fact that widespread un-enforcement basically makes violating traffic laws commonplace and arguably the norm. At which time, enforcement of these laws becomes arbitrary and capricious.

        If breaking the law is breaking the law, shouldn’t we demand that no lawbreaking occurs, and demand that the police do whatever is necessary to stop lawbreaking at any cost? We don’t, because breaking the law isn’t breaking the law. We put priorities on law-abiding and law enforcement depending on the seriousness of the crime. Nobody cares about Jaywalking. How upset would people be if the police started writing Jaywalking tickets.

        • Boom! Roasted


    • novasteve

      That’s not true. If there are quotas, and a cop isn’t meeting it, they can pull you over for going the speed limit or even under if it they deem it was too fast for the road conditions or weather conditions.

      • Lies

        When have you seen that charge? And we are not talking one time in the history of law enforcement, I mean on a regular basis? That charge is not written.

        • RonMcDDD

          Reckless driving.

          § 46.2-861. Driving too fast for highway and traffic conditions.

          A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who exceeds a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions existing at the time, regardless of any posted speed limit.


          • TCE

            Hey… it’s a law… don’t break it… if you don’t like it then get the fine folks in $Rich$mond to change it. Besides I’ve seen plenty of idiots that I wish they would ticket in bad weather for the way they drive. I don’t think they ticket enough of them!

          • novasteve

            Doesn’t have to be “bad” weather. The cop can say because it was so sunny out, you should have been driving more slowly. It gives them license to give you a ticket if they just feel like it, and it’s completely subjective and arbitrary. That’s why quotas are controversial, because if they haven’t met it, “well, it’s supposed to start raining soon, you should have been driving 3-5 mph below the speed limit, not driving the speed limit”

          • Lies

            I apologize for the above post, it should have been charged, instead of charge. Yes, it is in the books, but I have not seen it written on a regular basis, in fact, not even once. So, you pull out any obscure charge you want, but that doesn’t mean it is being used by cops.

    • Zuzu

      Not so fast. My wife and I have gotten 3 45mph in a 30mph zone. The site of the ticket are at the bottom of a hill or a hundred or so yards from a light which you accelerate then let off the gas to slow down. The police exploit these driving predictabilties. Ironically, I let myself coast down the bottom of a hill as my VW doesn’t have a torgue engage so I can save fuel by coasting. I am being green but it costs me in car insurance premioum increases, fines, defensive driving courses. I don’t drink so I am not a threat behind the wheel. But the idealist liberal stumps have a zero tolerance on this ticketing as they believe cars should disappear and the World should walk. Dumb.

  • G Clifford Prout

    Better watch out. They’ll ramp up enforcement just to let us know who is really in charge! (and it’s not the citizenry)

    • Frivolous

      Kinda weird, but it seems like there is extra Police out in the Ballston area today… But I’d like to think i’m just noticing them more after reading the article

    • Zuzu

      Tyrannies are usually kept in check by the bicameral government system. Unfortunately, the arlington sheep are mostly liberals so they just vote party lines. Sad. The rubber stamp anti-community dogma for their own efforts that actually lack a productive or progressive outcome, nihilists.

  • Jim Jones

    I know an officer that works for ACPD and he told me that one of the patrol commanders came into one of the roll calls and told the officers “Take this as the man is fu**ing you”. I feel bad that officers have this kind of leadership. What kind of reprimands will be taken against this patrol captain?

    • DSS10

      No reprimands will be taken against the patrol commanders:

      “Scott says there would be no disciplinary action taken against the two patrol commanders who issued the memo.”

      I bet if they were disciplined they would roll over on the chief in a second.

    • SomeGuy

      Jim Jones, I don’t understand. Please rephrase.

  • Zoning Victim

    Shouldn’t the Police Chief be the one getting in trouble? Either there is a quota system, which would make him a liar, or there a quota system “goes against the core values of this organization” and he lost control of the men under his command. Either way, I don’t see where he’s fit to be the Chief of Police.

    • Ballston4years

      So very true.

      We could all contact the Arlington County Board and ask for his removal. They seem to actually respond when they get completely swamped with people asking the same thing.

      • Lies

        Unfortunately the chief is not the problem with ACPD. They have horrible supervisors, although the chief has promoted most of them, so maybe he is the problem. At ACPD, they put people in supervisory positions cause they could not do the job well, so promote and hide them. Unfortunately, with this one, these captains didn’t remain hidden, and their knowledge of the job is showing. The officers have little/no faith in the command staff at ACPD, and the public shouldn’t either.

      • Zuzu

        Arlington county board members implement what they want, it is coincidence if it aligns with what the people happen to need.

  • I’d like to see a jaywalker quota.

    • John K.

      How about just some enforcement? I have seen jaywalker ticketing once in the entire DC area since I moved down here 20 years ago (last fall, Farragut Square).

  • Jackson

    The fact that the memo was written in the first place and the writers are not punished is indicative of a culture that supports quotas – just unwritten.
    Anyone who drives home on 395 knows that a quota is in effect. Pulling people over for failed safety checks in light of crushing traffic would only be done if there was merit to it by the PD.

    • Crash

      You think it is OK to drive on a ‘failed safety check”? I assume you mean an inspection sticker? What if they failed for bad brakes, should they be allowed to drive? Code of VA says they can only drive to/from inspection station to have them fixed. And they last for 15 days.

  • PJ

    1. Print out new memo

    2. Next time you get pulled over…

    3. Give it to officer and get off with no ticket


    • Daniel

      Let us all know how that goes.

    • Zuzu

      I don’t drink. The last time I got pulled over with my wife and 5 year old daughter in the car the pig said he smelled alcohol, hinting that he might drag me to jail. Their function on emotion first and rationale thought second as they have fragile little egos a skimpy IQ can’t support.

  • Civic Activist

    If there are going to be quotas, to promote public safety I have additional ones to suggest: tickets for jaywalking pedestrians, pedestrians busy texting, pedestrians using Ipods to drown out reality, and kamakazi bicyclists.

    • Arlingtonian

      I’ll second that one. Especially on the jaywalkers. They can ramp up that quota pretty quickly just by checking out Glebe and the Pike. I’m tired of having heart attacks from people dashing in front of my car, or worse, standing in the middle of the road to cross.

      • Bluemontsince1961

        I’ll third it.

        • TCE

          All in favor say ‘Aye”…. Aye….

  • bob

    Does the quota explain the weird habit of ACPD given you written warnings?

    • nom de guerre

      They give you a written warning so the next time you are pulled over they have a record that you have previously been warned and are more likely to issue to you a summons/ticket.

  • DSS10

    I watched the video:


    I’m confused by the lame excuse. I really like that the chief could not recall if any officers were fired for not meeting their numbers.

    The sad thing is that he believes that arrests are a metric to manage to, you should be managing to the reported crime statistics. This is real basic criminal justice theory, Police prevent crime and not just react to it.

    He should be fired.

  • FedUp

    How can memos be distributed without the Chief’s knowledge?

  • cars suck

    embrace the car free diet, ditch your car and then you don’t have to worry about getting a traffic ticket because of a quota. problem solved. bikes only is the future.

    • FedUp

      You would still have to worry about arrest quotas, though. The Chief can say what he wants: if quotas did not exist in his department, he would discipline the officers who distributed the memo. He didn’t. Quotas do exist. He got caught.

    • True

      Call us when the shuttle lands, there moonbeam. Doyou have aneck beard like scary Car Free Matt?

    • Zoning Victim

      What makes you think you are immune to getting a ticket when you are on a bicycle?

    • Henry

      Good idea. Can you help me install 2 child safety seats on my bike please? Along with an awning for rain, and an enclosed-heated area for winter.


  • mickey644

    Another Jack Booted memo from the ACPD! Never wonder why they lose respect from the public!

  • Ashton Heights

    I first heard “proactive” in a briefing by a RCMP officer in Ottawa in 1983. He was talking police walking beats and similar activities as a way to reduce crime. The word and the concept made sense to me, and still do.

  • Crab

    When was it, sometime back in the mid to late 90’s they were proposing changing the police uniforms to brown shirts? That got nixed at just the last minute.

  • BizBone

    I was ticketed twice on George Mason within a month. I asked the officer if warnings are ever given since I had no tickets after living in Arlington for several years. His response; “We are only allowed to give X warnings a month.”. This was in 2008. Seems to me a long standing quota system has been in place for years.

  • kevin

    I have a few police friends, and am told every police force in the nation does this. Frankly that’s ok with me, as a tax payer I am for it. If any one is breaking the law, ticket or bust them. In addition, other wise we might have too many over weight cops hanging out in Dunkin Doenuts parking lots.

  • Jameson

    Ticket quotas are one thing, arrest quotas are another. Wow

  • soarlslacker

    There are several things to be concerned about here:
    1) Why does it take the media and 20 days for the Arl Cty police chief to know what is going on in his own department? 20 days is a long time to be clueless.
    a. Is the goal of the police to write tickets and make arrests….or to keep the peace in the county?
    b.If no one reviews the information sent to officers and police employees, that is a failure of management and a huge problem.
    c. Why no discipline for the folks who sent out the quota memo? Ignoring mistakes like this indicates that there are no consequences against violating policy and little discipline in the arl cty police dept.
    2) Common sense indicates that quotes are stupid and would not be supported by the residents of Arl Cty
    a. Quotas would increase tickets and arrests and increase crime stats in the county
    i. An increase in crime stats is bad for everyone—residents, cty gov, police…it makes things look like the police are not doing a good job. In general, it makes residents think that the police are ineffective.
    ii. An increase in crime stats will not get the cops more officers; it will get the chief fired.
    b. A written policy of No Quotas might be a good idea at this time because this event will result in a lack of trust.
    i. Defendants will use…”the police were just trying to fill their quotas” because they would be fools not to do so.
    ii. No one will be confident that officers are not judged on raw numbers, now.

  • jacsa

    I have always suspected the police have traffic ticket quotas, because they give traffic tickets when there isn’t a violation, because they know, chances are you’re too busy to come to court and will just pay it, and if you do come to court, they figure the judge will believe them over the resident. I have been given 2 bogus traffic tickets this year. The cops just sit near this 4 way stop in the neighborhood, and pull you over and say you didn’t have seatbelt on, when you did, you didn’t use turn signal, or you didn’t come to a complete stop. None of these were true. All I won in court, the other I would have if I could have got out of work to go to court that day. I see them pulling people over so much, and no way they are so many Arlington drivers breaking traffic laws. They have to have a quota, or there are too many police, with nothing to do, and have to create traffic tickets to justify their jobs. The Goals of Traffic tickets should be for public safety; not I have to find a victim to give a ticket to, for county revenue and to keep my police job.

  • Alex

    Quotas are bad


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