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Missouri attorney general sues city over ticket quotas

Missouri’s attorney general has announced he’s suing the city of Marshfield for allegedly using traffic ticket quotas to generate revenue.

In the lawsuit, Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office claims that Marshfield’s police chief pressured officers to write more tickets beginning in 2018 as a way to boost city funds. Marshfield is about 27 miles east of Springfield, Missouri.

The lawsuit alleges that police Chief Doug Fannen asked police to write at least 16 tickets a month and posted officers’ statistics to the agency bulletin board. After Schmitt sued another city in April for using traffic ticket quotas, Fannen allegedly said the other city’s police chief “messed up” by documenting the quota policy.

“With this lawsuit against the City of Marshfield, we’re sending a clear message to municipalities across the state: even if you don’t write your traffic ticket quota policy down, we will take action to hold you accountable,” Schmitt said in a Monday statement.

In a statement provided by city Administrator John Benson, Marshfield officials disputed enacting traffic quotas.

Missouri banned the use of ticket quotas following protests in Ferguson over the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18 year old.

Brown’s shooting didn’t involve a traffic stop, but his death and the sometimes violent protests that followed drew attention to concerns about the mostly white police force’s treatment of the predominantly black residents of the St. Louis suburb, including the use of police to collect revenue through traffic fines and court fees.

Schmitt sponsored the ticket quota legislation during his time as a state senator.

The lawsuit against Marshfield also claims that city officials discouraged a whistleblower from speaking out against the city’s use of ticket quotas. The whistleblower, who at the time worked as a police officer, resigned after facing “disparate treatment,” according to the lawsuit. Fannen allegedly asked another officer to tell the whistleblower that if the resigned officer told the Attorney General’s Office about the ticket quotas, he would “pursue a felony charge against the resigned officer on an unrelated issue.”

Marshfield officials denied that Fannen tried to intimidate the whistleblower.

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