Recently, a friend told me he had gotten a citation from the local police department. “They see me in the downtown area almost every day,” he said, frustration oozing from his face. “Now I have to pay a ticket for something they let me do every day. Why now? What changed?”
My first response to him, “Ahh. You got hit by the revenue police.”
In Manitou Springs, like many other police departments around the country, grant revenue plays a role in how policing takes place. Grants for overtime, seat belt enforcement, DUI enforcement and other specific types of law enforcement are acquired by police departments. According to documents obtained from city hall, DUI enforcement has tripled from January to April.
Here’s a breakdown of DUI cases for 2017:
January – 5
February – 3
March – 9
April – 18
Meanwhile, citations issued by the MSPD follow a roller coaster trend:
January – 54
February – 80
March – 106
April – 56
Fortunately, Manitou Springs is not like Mountain View, Colorado, which uses citation revenues as a major source of funding for the city government and illustrates the fact these types of revenue can create corruption within police departments. Rather than focus on protecting citizens, cops are turned into revenue collectors, suggesting the old adage, “Protect & Serve,” has been replaced with, “Serve for Revenue.”
Not all citations are issued simply to create revenue or to pad the paychecks of police officers. Some citations are authentic; but the grant revenue used to perform certain policing functions suggests, too, that the police can be bought to the detriment of locals. The MSPD has a budget of more than $1.7 million for 2017; as of May, the MSPD had used up $650,000 of its total budget for the year.
If you get pulled over in Manitou Springs this summer, chances are you were ticketed for revenue purposes.
Op-Ed and photography by Paotie Dawson