In 1979 the Palatine Police Department created a program meant to provide officers with an opportunity to advance their careers – and provide financial incentives.
The Dual Career Ladder program allows officers who otherwise might not get a shot at a promotion a chance to improve themselves. It also provides officers a chance to earn salary bonuses by hitting certain arrest and ticket thresholds.
Palatine officials acknowledged that a program that ties bonuses to arrest and ticket numbers could bring cries of a quota system, but they said the program is a valuable way to provide incentive to officers. Palatine officials also said , not just hit arrest and ticket numbers, to get the bonues.
"If you do away with standards, what do you measure someone by?" Palatine Police Cmdr. Kurt Schroeder said. "A butcher has to cut meat. A salesman has to sell. A police officer has to look proactively for possible violations of the law."
District 1 Village Council member Aaron Del Mar said the program could create the perception that an officer was writing a ticket to reach a quota, but he also said he wanted officers to have incentives. "There has to be a happy medium," Del Mar said.
"I am truly against using police enforcement to generate revenue, the department is there for public safety, not as a revenue generator," said Del Mar, who is chair of the Palatine's Police Policy & Code Services Committee. Del Mar said the village should look at how other departments across the country provide incentives and consider updating the program.
To earn a bonus at level one, day shift officers must issue 170 "Y" tickets in a year. "Y" tickets include moving violations. There are other categories, too, such as compliance tickets. A compliance ticket includes violations such as not having a village vehicle sticker. In a year, 90 compliance tickets have to be issued.
The ticket numbers and bonuses increase at each level. At level four, day shift officers are supposed to give out at least 204 "Y" tickets and 110 compliance tickets.
The bonuses are given every six months for officers and every year for detectives. Officers at level one can receive a yearly maximum of $1,100, level two $1,775, level three $3,000, level four $4,000. Yearly bonuses for detectives are the same but only go to level three.
Palatine Patch has attached the thresholds for each of the four levels in PDFs to this story. Although not every officer is in the Dual Career Ladder program – its not even open to officers with less than seven years experience – the level one numbers from the program are used as part of the evaluation process of every patrol officer.
Palatine Police Chief John Koziol said the level one numbers are low enough that the standards would be easily defended if challenged in court.
"They're not hard to meet," Koziol said. "Any [arrest or citation] is going to be based on probable cause."
Koziol said the Dual Career Ladder is beneficial to the department because it in an environment where such opportunties often are sparse.
Koziol said only 20 percent of the about 111 full-time positions in the department are Sgt. and above. And individuals often stay in those leadership positions for years.
"If we have a sergeant position open we could have 30 guys who are qualified for it," Koziol said.
The Dual Career Ladder program allows officers to advance within the department, meeting tougher goals at each level and receiving a larger bonus. Aside from having to meet the ticket and arrest numbers to advance, officers also must develop specialty skills.
At level one, one skill area is needed; four skill areas are needed at the top level. Palatine Patch has uploaded all of the skill areas in documents attached to this story. They include abilities such as accident reconstructionist, breathalyzer operator, juvenile officer, etc.
In 2010, 73 staff members were eligible for the Dual Career Ladder program. Of those, 39 patrol officers participated in June and 40 patrol officers participated in December. For the year, 13 investigators participated.
For 2010, the program awarded $80,650 in bonuses.
When the program began 32 years ago one of its goals was to encourage officers to pursue higher education. However, since 1990 Palatine has required a bachelor's degree when hiring new officers.
The village also has grown and changed a lot since 1979. Although there are areas of Palatine that would appear to have different law enforcement issues – Rand and Dundee Road, for example, bears little resemblence to downtown – the Dual Career Ladder standards remain identical.
Koziol said the numbers have to remain the same, lest the department face allegations of profiling. The numbers are different for different shifts, however.
Koziol said traffic complaints are the number one issue the department deals with and is an area officers have to address proactively.
"All I get is traffic complaints," Koziol said. "A resident will call and say fast cars are coming through the neighborhood."
Palatine could assign stipends to specialty skill areas instead of using the bonus system, but Koziol said the current system provides initiative. He said a system in which the "worst employee makes as much as the best" is problematic.
"At some point, an officer needs to arrest somebody and write some tickets," Koziol said. "These numbers are a minimum standard."