Florida’s top highway safety official appeared Wednesday morning before Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected members of the Florida Cabinet to reiterate that the Florida Highway Patrol does not set ticket quotas.
“You have my commitment here today that no quotas will be tolerated in the Florida Highway Patrol,” Terry Rhodes, the executive director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, told the governor and Cabinet members.
Rhodes and her agency have come under fire following last week’s release of a July 28 email from Major Mark Welch to troopers in Troop H, an eight county area around Tallahassee, in which he seems to suggest a ticket quota.
“The patrol wants to see two citations each hour,” Welch wrote in his e-mail. “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.
“Stupid statement. That’s the only way to describe what that person said,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said in response to Welch’s email. “One misplaced reckless statement like that can give everybody a bad name.”
“I want to thank you for your swift action and making it clear that quotas will not be tolerated,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told Rhodes. “I think that your swift and unequivocal communications that quotas will not be tolerated has certainly put an end to any confusion that may have previously existed.”
Rhodes sent out a stern memo to FHP leadership on Thursday after Welch’s email became public.
“Getting in the black and tan to patrol the roadways is expected. Helping to educate and assist motorists is expected. Protecting lives is expected. Quotas are not part of our mission operationally or legally,” Rhodes wrote in the memo.
Col. Gene Spaulding, FHP’s top official, said a decision has not been made as far as any disciplinary action against Welch. Spaulding would only say that the matter is “under review.”
Spaulding says FHP’s policy manual and online training programs will be revised to make it clear that quotas will not be tolerated.
“Quotas are strictly prohibited. They always have been,” said Spaulding. “We are going to address that with a learning and development exercise, annual training and commitments we’ve already established.”
The quota issue overshadowed another matter of importance for FHP on the Cabinet’s agenda–a proposed 10 percent raise for troopers in next year’s budget. If approved by the Legislature, the starting salary for a trooper would be $42,000 a year.
Rhodes is hoping Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting will be the last time she has to address the quota issue.
“We feel this issue has been resolved. We feel like there’s going to be no other type of mistake that was made like that,” Rhodes said after the Cabinet meeting. “There are no quotas within the highway patrol.”