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Illinois Supreme Court Prohibits Evaluation of Police Officers by the Number of Citations Issued

Author: Robert M. Everett

Recently, in Policemen’s Benevolent Labor Committee v. The City of Sparta, 2020 IL 125508, the Illinois Supreme Court held that a city’s “activity points system,” which awarded activity points to police officers for issuing citations, violated the plain language of Section 11-1-12 of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/11-1-12 (West 2016)).  The City of Sparta’s “activity points system” required all full-time police officers to accumulate a minimum number of points each month.  Among the policing activities that earned points, two points were earned for issuing a citation and one point was earned for giving a traffic stop warning.  In addition, awards for Officer of the Month and Officer of the Year were based on points earned over the minimum standard (82 points for day-shift officers and 65 points for night-shift officers).  

Section 11-1-12 of the Illinois Municipal Code prohibits a municipality from: 1) requiring a police officer to issue a specific number of citations within a designated period of time; 2) comparing the number of citations issued by police officers for the purpose of evaluating job performance; and 3) including either the issuance of citations or the number of citations issued by a police officer in the officer's "points of contact," which include any quantifiable contact made in the furtherance of the police officer’s duties. The City argued that its “activity points system” did not violate section 11-1-12 because police officers could meet the monthly requirement without writing any citations, there was no requirement to write a specific number of citations, and officers were not compared based on the number of citations issued.  In response, the police officer’s Union argued that earning two points for issuing citations was a direct violation of section 11-1-12.  

The Circuit Court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment finding that the City’s activity points policy did not violate section 11-1-12.  However, the Appellate Court agreed with the Union and found that the activity points policy violated the plain language of section 11-1-12 because the City was evaluating its police officers by including the number of citations issued as a "point of contact." The Illinois Supreme Court agreed with the Appellate Court and concluded that section 11-1-12 prohibits municipalities from including the issuance of citations in a “points of contact” system used to evaluate the job performance of police officers.  The Illinois Supreme Court further found that “[b]y granting awards based on points of contact, the policy may provide an incentive for officers to write citations to accumulate as many points as possible.”

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