SAN ANGELO – The San Angelo Police Officers Coalition released a statement Friday denouncing San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter's comments about the declining number of traffic citations written over the last five years.
The Mayor's comments came during a Tuesday budget hearing. Watch the video below:
SAPOC made the following statement:
On August 29, 2023, COSA Mayor Brenda Gunter spoke during the General Fund Budget Meeting and indicated that the Police Officers of the City of San Angelo do not generate enough revenue through traffic citations. Mayor Gunter made the complaint that the General Fund is having to pick up more of the budget for Public Safety because the Citation count is down and stated "And that's an issue". Quotas have been forbidden in Texas for decades and for good reason.
According to an article published by the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center:
"Revenue generated by Class C Misdemeanors should be viewed by city officials as an INCIDENTAL BYPRODUCT of Law Enforcement and Court Operations. Traffic quotas undermine the traffic safety and public confidence in Law Enforcement and local Courts.
All local governments are legally prohibited from having traffic offense quotas according to section 720.002 of the Transportation Code which states: "prohibits formally or informally establishing a plan to evaluate, promote, compensate, or discipline a peace officer or judge based on the number of citations issued or fines collected."
Traffic Safety is a compelling public interest. The integrity of Law Enforcement and Municipal Courts in Texas hinges on maintaining public confidence that fairness, justice, public safety, and the rule of
law, not revenue generation, are the reasons Class C misdemeanors (crimes punishable by the imposition of a fine) exist. Most public servants are committed to reflecting on their role in government and promoting the public's interests. Public Officials and employees who either enable or perpetrate traffic quotas do not serve the public's interest. It is an abuse of public confidence that cannot betolerated in any City Hall by those truly committed to serving the public's interest."
In the interest of Public Trust, funding from Citations should not be an issue. Perhaps Mayor Gunter's agenda should put Public Safety first.
The point to Traffic Enforcement is Public Safety, and that is it. For the current fiscal year, San Angelo Police Officers have made around 20,000 traffic stops which resulted in dispositions ranging from verbal or written warnings, citations, or arrests. Which was approximately around 18% of the total calls for service.
Revenue from citations should never be considered as a funding source for how the City budgets and/or pays its Police Officers. We feel the Mayor implied that if we want more equipment or larger salaries then the citizens should be punished by the Police through fines.
It is unfortunate that Local Law Enforcement, because of the Mayor's irresponsible comments, have now been placed in a position lending to potential public distrust in the intention of the issuance of traffic citations. The Mayors comments related to discretionary enforcement have put some of the trust that the Department has built with the community in jeopardy.
The Officers of SAPOC encourage Mayor Gunter to change her view on the basis for which citations or warnings are issued.