by Ken Dixon
HARTFORD — State Police said Friday that a barracks commander’s attempt to inspire his troopers to catch more speeders by offering a pizza prize was misconstrued as a requirement for enforcement quotas.
But troopers believe that it might be part of an illegal effort on the part of the high-ranking officials.
The Thursday incident at Troop I in Bethany, whose patrol area includes Interstate 84, became the focus of criticism Friday from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the president of the troopers union.
“Quotas are not appropriate and are illegal,” Malloy told reporters after the monthly meeting of the State Bond Commission, adding that he has given Public Safety Commissioner Reuben F. Bradford until Monday to submit a full report.
“Apparently they do step up enforcement in the spring,” Malloy said, adding that last week a DOT worker was killed by a motorist on Route 8 in Waterbury. “It’s probably an appropriate step to take in the spring.”
Just before noon on Thursday, Lt. Anthony Schirillo III, Troop I’s commander, issued an “all hands on deck” email for Friday. “We have to issue 60 infractions/misdemeanors each shift for a total of 180 infractions, in order to outperform Troop F and Troop G,” he wrote.
Schirillo’s email indicated that Troop F, on Interstate 95 in Westbrook, and Bridgeport-based Troop G recently reported writing 301 tickets and 345 tickets on consecutive days, respectively.
“We can do better,” wrote Schirillo, the former commander of Troop G. “I am asking that everyone, myself included, contribute to this effort. Based on the number of on-duty personnel, 60 infractions a shift would proportionately put us above both troops. Note, if we happen to issue 350 tickets in one day that would be stellar.”
A follow-up email offered pizza to the trooper writing the most tickets.
Matthew Andrews, president of the Connecticut State Police Union, said state law prohibits quotas, and he’s concerned.
“Our members won’t comply with an illegal order or a ticket quota and will always use discretion as allowed by our department policy and the law,” Andrews told reporters in the Capitol complex.
Andrews said that major holidays usually prompt extra enforcement efforts, but he’s concerned that this is a divisionwide effort to require more ticket production.
“This wasn’t just specifically Troop I,” Andrews said. “It’s going on around the state that there’s an increased desire to issue more tickets and we don’t think it’s proper. Troopers will always do their job. Tickets are there to correct that behavior.”
Andrews said he was withholding judgment on Schirillo until the commissioner’s report is issued. “We don’t believe it’s the lieutenants or the captains,” he said. “We believe it could be from a higher command that’s asking for this.”
There are 12 barracks throughout the state and currently 1,080 troopers. A 1991 law prohibits the imposition of quotas on troopers.
Lt. J. Paul Vance, spokesman for the state’s Division of State Police, said Schirillo was merely cheerleading in attempt to outperform the two other barracks.
“There’s no way there were any required quotas,” Vance said in a phone interview. “Lt. Schirillo was saying, `Let’s go and work and give a little bit more, work a little bit harder, there are speeders out there.’ It was motivational and maybe he needed a little polish on it.”