HOWARD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ)– Howard County Police are under fire Friday with officers accused of pulling over motorists simply to meet their quotas.
Weijia Jiang has the latest on this brewing controversy.
The practice in question is using a quota system. The defendant’s lawyer produced a paper trail that showed Howard County Police were asked to issue a certain number of citations, and that is against the law.
When Katie Quackenbush, 22, was pulled over for speeding on Ellicott City’s Main Street, she was also charged with drunk driving– the amount of alcohol in her blood more than twice the legal limit.
But this week, a Howard County judge threw out the DUI charges ruling the arrest was linked to an illegal quota.
WJZ obtained a copy of the police memo at the center of the case. In it a supervisor advises DUI patrols an average of 2-4 citations must be written per hour on each of these details by each officer or future funding may be withheld.
It also said, you need to stop as many vehicles as possible, looking to make a DUI arrest and warnings don’t count.
Quackenbush’s lawyer says even if his client was drunk, it’s irrelevant.
“The only way to teach you not to violate people’s constitutional rights is to say you don’t get to go forward with the rest of your evidence, and that’s the message that was sent,” attorney Mark Muffoletto said. “There’s a right way and there’s a wrong way, and this was the wrong way to go about it.”
The judge did not provide a written opinion, nor has she commented on why she made the ruling.
“This judge in this case made a ruling I don’t agree with,” Howard County Police Chief William McMahon said.
He insists the department does not use quotas ever. He chalks up the supervisor’s memo as a bad choice of words.
“Look, this officer is committed to traffic safety,” he said. “It was a well-intended memo, but in retrospect it wasn’t worded well.”
McMahon says the memo has been pulled. But the police union says the damage is done.
“It’s unfair, the officer went out did the best job, did everything right,” FOP Lodge 21 President Gregory Der said. “Because of an administrative issue, the case got thrown out.”
The police chief tells us he’s consulting with the state’s attorney to decide whether to appeal the judge’s ruling. But for now, Quakenbush, who was accused of DUI, is completely cleared.
It’s unclear how many Howard County cases similar to this one might be affected by the ruling. The same judge is reviewing at least two others.