The Florida Highway Patrol officer who came under fire last week for writing an email to his troopers implied the use of a ticket quota system is retiring from the agency.
In a short,one sentence memo to FHP Col. Gene Spaulding, Major Mark Welch said, “Effective September 5, 2017, I request to retire from the Florida Highway Patrol.”
Spaulding issued a short statement after receiving Welch’s memo.
“Tonight, I accepted Major Mark Welch’s letter of retirement from the Florida Highway Patrol,” said Spaulding, FHP’s leader. “Major Welch has served Florida for more than 35 years, and I appreciate his dedication to the state of Florida and FHP’s mission of saving lives.”
Over the years, FHP has fought the perception that it uses quotas for traffic citations. That perception was raised again last month when the commander of Troop H, which covers eight counties in the Tallahassee area, sent out an email suggesting his troopers write two tickets an hour.
“The patrol wants to see two citations each hour,” Welch wrote in his e-mail to the troopers. “This is not a quota; it is what we are asking you to do to support this important initiative.”
That initiative Welch refers to is the Statewide Overtime Action Response program, or SOAR. It’s a taxpayer funded program that allows troopers to make extra money working overtime in high-traffic areas.
The email was made public last week, sparking criticism of FHP and putting the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which oversees the highway patrol on the defensive.
Terry Rhodes, the executive director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the agency that oversees FHP, was quick to send out a stern memo reminding FHP leadership that quotas are illegal and have no place in the agency.
Rhodes appeared before Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected members of the Florida Cabinet to assure them that FHP does not use quotas.
During the meeting, Attorney General Pam Bondi called Welch’s email a “stupid statement.”
“One misplaced reckless statement like that can give everybody a bad name,” Bondi added.
Following the Cabinet meeting, Col. Spaulding was asked about possible disciplinary action against Welch. Spalding would only say it’s “under review.”
Hours later, Welch submitted his one sentence retirement memo.