The president of Niagara police union says incidents such as drivers in funeral processions being ticketed are the inevitable result of a ‘ticket quota’ which directs front line officers to cite at least one traffic offence a day.
Paul DiSimoni, president of the Niagara Region Police Association, said the direction has been around for nearly a year and a half and was communicated service-wide through a video and reinforced by Police Chief Wendy Southall and senior management.
He said Southall’s “traffic management plan” has officers being directed to issue “a ticket a day” despite them having discretion as to whether or not to issue such Provincial Offence Notices.
This expectation hampers an officer’s ability to use common sense, such as the case of the driver in a funeral procession, he said.
“They’re finding themselves in situations in which discretion has been severely limited and in some cases virtually eliminated,” he said.
DiSimoni’s comments come after an incident last week in which the driver of the last car in a funeral procession was ticketed for going through a red light. The funeral home tried to explain to the police that the driver, nephew of the deceased woman, was simply trying to keep up to the procession travelling from Lakeview Cemetary from Holy Rosary Church in Thorold.
However, the $350 ticket still stands.
While Mike Bocchinfuso, funeral director assistant for Lamb-Bocchinfuso Funeral Home, confirmed those events occurred, he said the funeral home will not comment further on the issue.
DiSimoni said the quota, whether official or not, has served to send morale among the more than 700 front-line officers the association represents to an all-time low. “It’s worn itself very thin with our membership,” he said.
He said the association has asked repeatedly for the traffic management plan to be re-defined, and if officers are expected to use discretion, for that to be expressly communicated. “In our view, it’s fallen on deaf ears,” he said.
NRP Deputy Chief Joe Matthews said there is no traffic quota, though officers have been asked to pay special attention to Highway Traffic Act offences, noting that studies have shown that increased enforcement leads to lower fatalities.
“We’re proud of the work our officers are doing in that regard,” he said.
However, he said, the number and quality of tickets written by an officer is just one way job performance is measured.
And while he wouldn’t comment directly on the specific case, Matthews said funeral processions are not exempt from traffic laws, despite the courtesy most drivers pay them.
Still, he said, an officer is free, and in fact encourged, to use discretion.
“We hire officers for the good judgement that they display, and our officers do very well in using that judgement when carrying out their duties.”