National watchdog group questions Forest Service ticket quotas - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

National watchdog group questions Forest Service ticket quotas

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A Washington, DC based watchdog group is blasting top management at the US Forest service for asking forest service law officers to fulfil a quota of 100 violation notices per year.

A spokesman for PEER which stands for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said officers were confused by different directives coming down to them.

While a top official said they were required to write 100 violation notices a year, another official later sent out a memo telling them to follow their own discretion.

According to a press release, a PEER spokesperson said: "In a November 6, 2013 email, Aban Lucero, the Patrol Commander for the Southwest Region of the Forest Service, reiterated to his patrol captains that LEI&I Director David Ferrell is serious about law enforcement officers issuing a target number of violation notices (VNs are citations for minor offenses, such as traffic and camping violations):

"Understand, Director Ferrell has clearly indicated his expectations of LEOs issuing a minimum of 100 VNs per year, and as you can see we have approximately 70% of LEOs…who fall below that number. For FY 14, I expect these numbers to increase substantially."

After an Albuquerque newspaper broke the story, PEER officials said forest service officers got another memo from a different official telling them to ignore the directive.

Officials with the Coronado National Forest and the Regional US Forest Service office in New Mexico said they were unable to answer our questions in regards to this quota, and directed us to contact their headquarters in Washington, DC.

Tucson News Now left several messages for the communications director, but has not heard back yet.

A Washington DC spokesman for PEER said, the group had surveyed hundreds of forest service employees.  In the essay portion of the survey, many employees spoke of morale being low and expressed concerns about having to fulfill the 100 violation notices quota.

Jack Gregory, a retired US Forest Service Special Agent in charge of the Southern operation said, he had never experienced quotas during his tenure with the department, but he was aware of the concerns among his colleagues.

"Nobody in the law enforcement sector likes it, it's ridiculous.  Some of us who are now retired are shocked over this.  This happens to be an issue with top leadership in Washington right now," said Gregory.

Daniel Patterson, a regional director for PEER said the group was calling for the US forest service to clarify it's directives and to respect rangers on the ground.

"They're getting these contradictory messages.  We want you to write more tickets.  We want you to stay in the office more, we don't want you out driving around, it costs money," said Patterson.

He added, "It's a unique law enforcement position to protect public land, protect our nature and forests, we shouldn't be turning them into ticket dispensing machines to focus on minor city cop type crimes," said Patterson.

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