The head of the Wyoming Highway Patrol announced Tuesday that the agency no longer will require troopers to meet yearly numbers on traffic stops and citations.
Wyoming Highway Patrol Col. John Butler announced the agency is ending the policy starting next year.
Under the policy, troopers in Laramie and Albany counties were expected to each make at least 732 traffic stops and issue at least 55 seat belt violation tickets per year to be deemed "competent."
The agency had instituted the policy in August. Law enforcement and civil liberties groups expressed concern that the practice could increase the risk of questionable stops.
"We understand that our policy of setting forth the expected numbers of traffic stops and citations during a certain period of time is perceived by some as constituting a quota system," Butler said in a prepared statement on Tuesday. "Although we in the patrol have never considered it as such, we acknowledge that the perception exists and that's why we are taking steps to address the issue."
Butler maintained that the policy wasn't intended as a quota system, but as way to gauge whether the patrol was meeting traffic safety goals.
"Regardless of how our management tailors the job evaluation process, the Wyoming Highway Patrol's overriding goal will continue to be the vigorous enforcement of traffic laws which directly impact highway safety." Butler said.
"We are committed to curbing hazardous driving behaviors whenever it is encountered, with emphasis on impaired driving, speeding, distracted driving and failure to wear seat belts," Butler said.
Butler said it's standing policy at the patrol that troopers should pull over motorists when they see a violation of traffic laws. He said troopers have discretion whether that stop will result in a citation or a warning, but said, "when a seat-belt violation is discovered during a stop, it is our expectation that a citation will be written for that particular offense."
In reporting on the quota requirement in November, the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle quoted Bill Johnson, executive director of the Virginia-based National Association of Police Organizations, as saying that tying the number of traffic stops or citations to troopers' job performance assessments is dangerous.
"You are introducing something into the equation other than the driver's behavior," Johnson told the newspaper. He said the practice risks encouraging troopers who haven't met their numbers to charge offenses they otherwise wouldn't and essentially tells troopers that management doesn't trust their discretion.
The newspaper also quoted Jennifer Horvath, staff attorney for the Wyoming chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union as saying quotas can be abused to make money for the state.
"We train the troopers to make public safety their priority," Horvath told the paper. "But these quotas are shifting that from fighting crime to focusing on money and these numbers."