DMN has a great piece on a new scandal for the DPD. It seems that 3 officers wrote tickets without probable cause, wrote multiple tickets for the same offense, had citizens sign “blank tickets” and filled in the infractions later, and issued “at large” tickets after citing an individual in person.
At large tickets are issued when the suspect is not available to cite in person. If the ticket is not mailed to the right address and the suspect never appears in court a warrant can be issued. It seems that defendants were jailed without any knowledge of a ticket being issued.
DMN speculates that these highly decorated officers were motivated to “write more tickets so that it appears they are working harder than their peers. Cpls. Stecker, Nelson and Schoelen have been prolific ticket writers.. ”
How could this go on for so long?
1. The defendants are not very sophisticated, educated, or sympathetic. Many of these ticketswere to prostitutes and the homeless. If they end up in jail and complain it is their word against the police. Guess how that looks in court?
2. Class C misdemeanor defendants do not have the right to counsel; even if they are incarcerated for the tickets. These defendants had no one to challenge these tickets. I am guessing most plead out for “time served.”
3. These officers had oustanding credentials. Quoting from the article- The three officers have all received positive reviews from supervisors. A sergeant wrote in a recent evaluation that Cpl. Schoelen “excels in the performance of his duties.” Cpl. Stecker’s sergeant called him a “resourceful, intelligent, poised professional police officer.” Cpl. Nelson’s supervisor described him as “dependable, responsible and one of the most knowledgeable officers” he knew.
We need to quit jailing defendants for tickets. It’s repugnant to liberty. If we are going to throw people in jail for tickets they need the same legal protections as other defendants. Otherwise, we will have more situations like this.