Los Angeles to settle officers' lawsuits for $6M

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The City Council agreed to pay $5.9 million to settle lawsuits by 11 police officers that claimed they were punished for failing to meet or objecting to traffic ticket quotas, the police chief said Tuesday.

The Los Angeles council approved settlements of two suits brought by current and former officers.

"I'm pleased, and I'm sure the officers are pleased. They can put this matter to rest," Gregory Smith, an attorney for the officers, told City News Service.

Police Chief Charlie Beck denied that the Los Angeles Police Department had traffic ticket quotas — which are illegal under state law — but said traffic officers did have productivity goals.

"It is unfortunate that this case cost the city hard-earned taxpayers money," Beck said in a statement. "The goal has always been to improve the productivity and accountability of our officers in order to reduce serious and fatal traffic collisions."

The lawsuits contended that motorcycle officers in the West Traffic Division were required to write at least 18 traffic tickets each shift and that 80 percent of the citations had to be for major violations. The officers claimed they were reprimanded, denied overtime, given bad schedules or otherwise harassed if they failed to meet those figures or raised concerns about the alleged quotas.

The settlement decision follows a 2011 jury award of $2 million to two motorcycle officers in a similar case.

That award "made settling this case the most prudent business decision," Beck said.

Beck said that the West Traffic Division gave officers the goal of spending 80 percent of their time on traffic code violations that could lead to serious injuries or deaths but that "this was not a quota system under the law."

However, Beck said the jury that awarded $2 million in the first lawsuit "interpreted" the goal as an unlawful quota.

The LAPD "has taken steps to ensure that all divisions are using appropriate measures to evaluate officers' productivity" and is committed to a workplace free of retaliation and discrimination, Beck said.

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