The open mike at Richardson City Council meetings is usually uneventful, but Monday night's Visitors Section was different. A 13-year veteran of the Richardson Police charged supervisors in the department of illegally using quotas to evaluate and discipline officers. "Illegally" was her word, not mine.
She claimed that the quota system operates by evaluating officers' ticket writing against department averages, with under-performance leading to threats that an officer would "suffer." When asked what "suffer" meant, she says she was told it meant being placed on a corrective action plan with every-other-month inspections and meetings with command staff members, escalating to threats of "forced resignation." Besides quoting chapter and verse of state law regarding such practices, she also claimed that "quotas erode the public trust in the department." Apparently lacking confidence in resolving this through channels, she took her charges to the City Council and called on the City to take action.
This can go two ways. The City could live up to its much-publicized Transparency Initiative, in which it states that "The Richardson Police Department believes transparency is vital to a successful community-police relationship." This would require the City to conduct an independent, thorough investigation, with a public report of the findings.
If it turns out there's any truth to the charge, it's a big problem for the Richardson police supervisors and for the department as a whole. It's hard to get the public to rally behind a "Back the Blue" campaign if the officers feel that they have to make bogus traffic stops to meet some internal quota.
The other way this can go is the City can deal with it behind the scenes, with the public never learning the truth behind the charges or what changes are made to address the charges. The "Back the Blue" campaigns can continue, but there will be a few more citizens raising their eyebrows when they see the yard signs. Honestly, I don't know which of those two options I would bet on happening.
I wish I could say that the rank and file police officers are a sympathetic party in this controversy. But I can't. Why? Three things, off the top of my head:
1. I was surprised that an earlier police stop didn't blow up the local news, either when it happened in December, 2018, or when the Garland teen sued the City of Richardson in March, 2021. According to The Dallas Morning News, the teen's lawyer claims the Richardson police "contrived a bogus reason to stop him in order to search the pickup for drugs simply because he was a 'young Black man with a hoodie.' " Neither the teen nor his lawyer suggested it at the time, but now I wonder if perhaps a ticket quota system also played a supporting role in this stop. Any possibility that it did gives the jury a reason to side with the Garland teen.
2. Given that this week, former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd, this week was probably not the best time for Richardson police to remind the public that Richardson police identified with the murderer when a cartoonist compared the murderer to Jim Crow police, the KKK, and slave owners. Not a good look for Richardson police, not then and certainly not this week.
3. Some members of the public (and by some, I mean, of course, me alone) chided the Richardson police union for endorsing Donald Trump for President, and then, chided them even more when they didn't retract that endorsement after President Trump incited an insurrection that resulted in the storming of the US Capitol and physical attacks against Capitol Police. That, too, "erodes the public trust in the department." If police rank and file won't back up the rule of law, or even other police officers who are doing just that, why should the public?
Despite all that, it's still an easy call for me on this one. Yes, for sure the City of Richardson ought to conduct a thorough and independent investigation. But Richardson Police, you should look in your hearts and decide, which side are you on, your own or the public's?