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Deputies issued high percentage of warning

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

Deputies issued high percentage of warning

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
February 20, 2012

An interesting part of law enforcement is the ticketing pattern by officers.

In the January 2012 report of the Sheriff's Department to the County Board, including in the packet for the February 21st County Board meeting, are the statistics of patrol activity (Page184 of the .pdf document at http://www.co.mchenry.il.us/departments/countyboard/MtgDocs/201202/022112cb/022112cbPACKET.pdf

Deputies issued a total of 1,100 tickets in January, which included 645 tickets and 455 warnings (described as "warning tickets". Forty-one (41.4%) got warnings. Four out of ten excaped fines and court costs, and nearly six out of ten will get to reach for their checkbooks or fight their tickets in court.

What would account for a 41% warning rate?And what are the guidelines for a deputy's discretion to issue a warning, instead of a ticket?

A deputy must have probably cause to make a traffic stop. In other words, he observed a traffic violation. So, what then determines whether a driver will get a pass.

Several years ago I learned how it happened in Woodstock. After I got stopped for a headlight that had been out for 10 miles and 15 minutes, the cop said he was going to give me a warning. That was fair. I had had numerous headlight problems, showed him the frequency of repair, and told him I intended to have the headlight repaired the next day.. Then a second cop showed up and reminded him of an order at the P.D. that, if I got stopped, I was to get a ticket - no warning. Was that fair?

When bonafide traffic stops are made, is a 41% rate of warnings to tickets the "right" number. If those 41% include mostly headlights and other lights out, I'd say it sounds right. Issue the warning, give the driver five days to correct it, and require compliance and proof of it.

To what extent to supervisors track the warnings and tickets by type of violation and name of driver? Any? The numbers ought to be pretty even across the ranks. Are there deputies who are far outside the norm, one way or the other?

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