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ACLU warns police chiefs following NBC 10 I-Team investigation

Charlestown Police Department email specifies that officers need to make contacts between 5 and 7 a.m. and that "tickets are encouraged." (WJAR)

After the NBC 10 I-Team reported that at least one local police department in Rhode Island appears to be using ticket quotas in violation of state law, the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island is taking action--and could even take the matter to court.

The organization sent a letter to all police chiefs in the state on Monday, reminding them that ticket quotas violate state law. The ACLU helped pass the law banning quotas in 2010.

“The ACLU is also considering legal action on behalf of affected motorists,” spokeswoman Nicole Cordier said in a news release.

Cordier said the I-Team’s reporting on internal emails from the Charlestown Police Department this month prompted the ACLU to act. In the emails, police officers were told to stop at least five cars per hour when working on enforcement grants, and that no warnings were allowed per the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, which administers federal grant money to local police departments.

Charlestown Police Chief Jeff Allen declined to do an on camera interview with NBC 10 News. But he told us that his department does not have quotas, and was only following guidelines from RIDOT when the emails were sent to officers.

So the I-Team took what we learned to RIDOT, prompting the agency to immediately change its policy. Gaby Abbate, chief of Highway Safety, told NBC 10 that local departments would no longer be give the five stops per hour guideline when receiving grant funds.

“We never said that you can’t give out warnings or anything like that,” Abbate said. “We always support discretion. We are not law enforcement.”

In Monday’s letter to police chiefs, the ACLU also raised questions about what message a quota may send to Rhode Island residents.

“A quota policy can only generate disrespect for, and cynicism about, law enforcement,” the letter says. “The implementation of traffic ticket quotas is problematic as a matter of policy, but even more so when it involves a police department itself violating the law.”

The ACLU also encouraged drivers who believe they have evidence of traffic ticket quotas in Rhode Island to share that information so that the organization can bring a legal action on their behalf.

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