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Palm Beach Police Write Too Many Tickets

From the Palm Beach Post:

PB police probed for writing too many tickets

By Jane Musgrave
June 6, 2012

From its long abandoned practice of ticketing shirtless joggers and issuing ID cards to gardeners, the rules in Palm Beach have always been different.

Now, in response to complaints from town residents who believe rules on the tony island should be different, police officers are being investigated and fired for writing too many traffic tickets.

Officer William Eaton, who has patrolled the town’s ficus-lined streets for six years, was fired this week. Union leaders say two other officers face similar fates.

In a termination letter signed Tuesday, the town’s director of public safety says Eaton’s ticket-writing frenzy violated several department rules, including conduct unbecoming and using his position to intimidate the citizenry. His attorney views it differently.

"It was a clear and utter witch hunt," said attorney Elizabeth Parker, who said Eaton will fight to be reinstated.

She doesn’t dispute that the number of traffic tickets Eaton wrote soared, going from 222 citations in 2011 to 115 in one month earlier this year.

However, she claims Eaton began writing more tickets when the town in January changed how raises are handed out. When they switched to a bonus system based on merit, instead of longevity, Eaton decided he needed to work harder to assure he would be among the top officers who received a possible $6,000 bonus.

Which seems like a somewhat surprising thing to admit.

Public Safety Director Kirk Blouin said Eaton’s sudden and intense interest in traffic enforcement was more sinister. In the termination letter, he said it was retaliation for the contract changes and the town’s decision to reduce police pension benefits.

He recalled a conversation he had with Eaton several years back when the pension changes were first proposed. "What are they going to do when we start writing them all tickets and arresting them for DUI?" Blouin recalled Eaton asking. At the time, Blouin said he viewed the comment as a threat to retaliate against town residents if pension benefits were cut. He said he warned Eaton that such conduct could result in his termination.

In a 19-page letter to Blouin, Parker said Eaton was merely questioning whether the town’s unwritten rule of being more lenient toward residents than non-residents when it comes to drunk driving would remain if police were pushed to do more while getting less

Which sounds like a distinction without a difference to us.

Beginning in January, Blouin wrote that he began getting complaints from residents, accusing the agency of setting up speed traps. At a February town meeting, Councilman Robert Wildrick said police were "harassing and intimidating" residents because of the pension plan changes. Blouin responded: "I share some of your concerns. We have a small percentage that we consider bad apples." …

This is more than just local interest because the charge is some of the police are doing this in retaliation for Palm Beach having changed their union contract and reduced their pension benefits.

But all of this just shows what is probably happening all over the country as cities and counties and states try to adjust their public sector union contracts.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, June 7th, 2012. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Palm Beach Police Write Too Many Tickets”

  1. Kytross says:

    So let me get this straight, this town voted to restructure the police’s benefits to make them more efficient and then fired a cop for being more efficient. If they didn’t want the police’s performance to increase they shouldn’t have given them performance based raises. Hypocracy, thy name is Palm Beach

    Additionally, there seems to be no complaints regarding the validity of Eaton’s tickets. That is to say, he wasn’t writing tickets for iffy traffic violations, like driving through a yellow light, or outright false tickets, like doing 33 in a 35mph zone. Which leads to the question, was he trying to find more people to write tickets for or was he simply finding more people violating the law? EIther way there seems to have been a plethora of people to ticket.

    I am particularly perturbed by the ‘unwritten’ rule that out-of-towners were fair game but locals were to be left alone. The police should not favor one person over another, especially when it comes to DUIs. If a drunk driver swerves and kills me or mine, I really don’t care if they’re a local or an out-of-towner, I want the police to catch and stop them before they get to me.

  2. yadayada says:

    sounds like the market in use;
    1) township claims shortage of funds for officers
    2) citizens vote to decrease funding for officers
    3) officers decide to stop letting citizens off hook for minor violations
    4) number of citations – read fines- increase
    5) revenues to township coffers increase
    6) problem solved.

    note to residents of all communities – if you don’t want to be arrested/cited, don’t violate laws. duh?

    ps— kytross, I wholly agree with you:
    what difference does the zip code on driver’s license mean if a DUI is committed?


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