>> Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Motorists beware: In some communities, police are issuing tickets during these hard times at a rate higher than ever in what critics say is an attempt to raise revenue in order to offset budget shortfalls.
Take, for example, the metropolitan Detroit area, which has been reeling economically much longer than has the rest of the country. The number of moving violations issued has increased by at least 50 percent in 18 communities in the metro area since 2002—and 11 of those municipalities have seen ticketing increases of 90 percent or more. During that time, Michigan has cut revenue sharing to communities by $3 billion. Officials are scrambling to balance their budgets amid the tumbling economy, and some people say the authorities are turning to traffic cops for help.
The president of a state police union isn't pretending it doesn't happen. James Tignanelli, president of the Police Officers Association of Michigan union, says, "When elected officials say, 'We need more money,' they can't look to the department of public works to raise revenues, so where do they find it? Police departments.
"A lot of police chiefs will tell you the goal is to have nobody speeding through their community, but heaven forbid if it should actually happen—they'd be out of money," Tignanelli says.
Police Chief Michael Reaves of Utica, Michigan, says the role of law enforcement has changed over the years. "When I first started in this job 30 years ago, police work was never about revenue enhancement, but if you're a chief now, you have to look at whether your department produces revenues," he says. "That's just the reality nowadays."
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