TUPELO • Several members of the police advisory board offered support on Wednesday for the idea of a ticket writing quota at the police department, prompting a strong reaction from a key City Hall figure.
A number of lawsuits by former Tupelo Police Department officers have alleged promotion decisions at the department are tainted by bias and that some key figures over the patrol department demand that officers meet quotas for ticket writing.
The Tupelo Police Department has long denied it enforces any kind of quota. Speaking to the advisory board Wednesday, Don Lewis, the city’s chief operations officer, offered a strenuous denunciation of ticket quotas.
“I do want to emphasize one thing. Having a quota is a bad thing. We absolutely as an administration do not and will not ever have a quota,” Lewis said.
The insistence by Lewis on this point came even as some of the community members who sit on the advisory board threaten to muddle the city’s messaging.
“I wouldn’t care if you had a quota,” advisory board member Tom Hewitt said.
That comment prompted Lewis to stand back up and reiterate his point.
“There absolutely is no quota,” Lewis said.
Advisory board member Terry Goin made similar remarks as those by Hewitt.
“Ticket quotas? Like that’s a bad thing? Is it a bad thing?” Goin said.
Former officers who have made the ticket quota allegations – including Tiffany Gilleylen and Jennifer Baker – have told the Daily Journal in interviews that they believe pressure to write tickets has often encouraged officers to patrol in low-income neighborhoods where they believe they can more easily write tickets.
The board’s discussion of the ticket quota allegations comes as Bill Allen, the advisory board chairman, and two other advisory board members recently met with a select group of officers to discuss conditions within the department.
According to Allen, those officers denied any pressure to meet a quota.
Allen did call ticket writing statistics “a legitimate productivity measure.”
In depositions, Tupelo police leadership have said they use a variety of measures to ensure officers are doing their jobs, including tickets, warnings, accident and incident reports.
Wednesday’s discussion comes amid ongoing uncertainty about the advisory board’s function.
Member Ron Richardson recently raised concerns that the board is failing to ask the police department legitimate questions about issues of public concern.
But speaking Wednesday, Hewitt said his whole purpose for being on the board is to curtail any oversight of local police.
“I wanted to be on this board and I politicked to get on this board,” Hewitt said. “One of the main things is to make sure we never decide we were an oversight committee of the police department.”
An outspoken member of the advisory board, Hewitt has often advocated for an aggressive style of policing. He has suggested that police should feel free to use lethal force more often than they do and on one occasion suggested that harm to uninvolved bystanders was an acceptable cost if needed to bring a standoff to resolution.