Quotas on arrests or citations are never a good idea, and are illegal for California traffic officers, but the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has been doing the next worst thing. A Times investigation discovered that the department has been holding informal competitions among deputies since July to see how many people they could arrest in a 24-hour period, or how many vehicles they could impound.
A contest that encourages officers to boost arrests without regard to their quality leads to abusive police conduct and public cynicism. Aside from the obvious fact that it could prompt questionable arrests by officers eager to win, it could taint some criminal cases. Indeed, on Thursday, the county public defenders office launched an investigation into the arrests made during one of the contests, and may challenge them in court. The organizer of the contests, Lt. James Tatreau, says they were simply an effort to motivate deputies, and the award for winning was nothing more than "bragging rights." Good-conduct citations are a more fitting motivational tool.
To his credit, Sheriff Lee Baca stopped the contests after he was informed about them by a reporter. But why did he find out about them from The Times, which learned of the contests from an internal Sheriff's Department memo?