The tiny 12-square-block town of Mountain View, Colo., is relying so heavily on the revenue generated from nit-picky traffic tickets that an independent consultant recommended disbanding the police force over questions about its ethics.
Mountain View wrote more tickets for drivers with an “obstructed view” from windshield cracks and air fresheners hanging on the rearview mirror than Denver, Aurora and Boulder combined, according to an investigation by Denver’s 9News.
The station also found that the town ignored a report two years ago recommending it disband the cops since they seem to do little but wait to pounce on motorists for the sake of raising money. The report’s authors suggested the town contract with the Jefferson County Sheriff for law enforcement.
“We believe that lying in wait to write traffic citations to generate revenue is not serving the best ethical foundations of professional law enforcement,” concluded KRW Associates, a consulting firm made up of former law enforcement officers.
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Law enforcement activities, the report continued, should not be conducted as “a source of revenue to directly support the salaries of the issuing officers.”
9News reported that the seven-person patrol squad is on pace to collect nearly $600,000 in court fees this year, nearly double the amount the consultants reported two years ago. Nearly half of the town’s revenue for 2014 is expected to come from court fees associated with traffic citations.
Some officers interviewed by KRW said they felt psychological pressure to write many tickets so that employees can be paid. A focus group of business owners “cited a concern over retaliation and/or threats of arrest when they interact with officers who are on calls or traffic stops.”
“The entire reason that Mountain View exist is to harass and extort money from motorists,” Denver attorney David Lane told 9News. Lane filed a class action lawsuit against the town in 2006, but it was dismissed by a judge who said the cops weren’t violating motorists’ constitutional rights.
“We alleged that the town of Mountain View, as a municipality, was a racketeering organization,” he said. “They were simply extorting people. The entire court system is in the pocket of Mountain View.”
Mountain View Police Chief Mark Toth said in a statement to the station that his department is doing nothing wrong.
“Citizens expect that we enforce traffic laws as well as municipal ordinances and state statutes,” he wrote. “No one likes to get a ticket but they do serve as a deterrent. It is the decision of our elected officials and citizens that we provide police services in our community 24/7. We employ the fewest officers possible to provide that coverage.”
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