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Bamberg hopeful ticket quota bill passes

After receiving overwhelming support in the S.C. House, Rep. Justin Bamberg is hoping his bill forbidding the use of police ticket quotas will become law.

“The law enforcement community has been supportive of the bill, and I think a 99-0 vote in the House is pretty convincing,” the Bamberg Democrat said.

“I think it sends a clear message that in South Carolina we’re not going to allow things like that to happen,” he said.

Bamberg said House approval is one giant step forward for the bill that he hopes will strengthen community-police relations and make law enforcement officers’ jobs a little less stressful.

“I think this is a very big step in sort of fixing that relationship ... and reinstilling a certain degree of trust between the citizens and law enforcement and vice versa,” he said.

The bill would forbid departments from requiring law enforcement officers to write a certain amount of tickets in a set amount of time. It also includes a whistleblower provision.

“If you speak out against something not just in law enforcement, but in any profession, there could be a degree of backlash or retaliation towards you,” he said.

“So the whistleblower provision in the bill protects officers from that. If they come forward and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got an illegal quota system,’ that officer’s protected through the provision. So that’s another very positive thing,” Bamberg said.

The legislator said he is hopeful the bill will also be approved by the Senate.

“I have spoken with a couple of Senate members who are on board to try to help me usher the bill through the Senate. I think we can get it passed this year,” Bamberg said.

Bamberg said the bill will go a long way in helping to make law enforcement officers feel “a little bit happier” on their job in not having to write a certain number of citations within a set period of time. Under the bill, officers could still be judged on their points of contact.

“It just outlaws a mandate stating that you have to write X number of tickets per shift or per week. You’re still going to see officers writing tickets, but what it doesn’t do is penalize people who police in other ways,” he said, including patrolling communities, speaking to the elderly and maintaining visibility in high-crime areas.

He said, “Law enforcement has a very difficult job. It’s a very stressful and dangerous job and if you add arbitrary requirements ... all it does is add unnecessary pressure on these individuals. The General Assembly bears a share of responsibility for the use of tickets for revenue creation for municipalities.

“I say that because the state has historically underfunded law enforcement just like they’ve underfunded education and all these other key aspects, including health care in rural areas.”

Bamberg says he will continue to seek other changes.

“There are a couple of other bills, and I know I have one that I will probably end up having to refile next year that is tailored at the use of ticket revenue,” Bamberg said.

“But this is a start, and a very big start. This quota ‘myth’ has existed for my whole life, so I’m just excited that I could play a part in it for positive change,” he said.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD.

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