Mantua, UT — Everyone reading this article right now knows what it is like to have the blue and red lights pop up in your rear view mirror. The last thing going through your mind at this point is the feeling of 'being protected.' This feeling comes from the fact that the overwhelming majority of the time a driver sees police lights in their mirror is because they have been targeted for revenue collection—often the result of a quota system—and they are about to be given a ticket, or worse.
Police, we are told, are here to keep us safe and protect us from the bad guys. However, public safety all too often takes a back seat to revenue collection. Time and time again, the Free Thought Project has exposed quota schemes in which officers were punished for not writing enough tickets.
The state is has become so addicted to the endless stream of revenue generated from preying on people for victimless crimes like window tint, seat belt violations, license plate lights, expired stickers, and air fresheners, that when this revenue slows down, heads will roll. This appears to be the case in Mantua, Utah where the chief of police was reportedly fired for not writing enough tickets.
Last month, Mantua police Chief Michael Castro was summoned to a meeting with the mayor on March 25. During this meeting, he was handed a letter stating his employment with the city is now on probation. The letter accused Castro of not writing enough parking tickets and failing to answer calls for service. It was also filled with false claims which were later proven to be lies by the very people it mentioned.
“About halfway through reading it,” Castro said, “I told them that I wasn’t going to sign it or continue reading it because it was not accurate.”
Mayor Michael Johnson then immediately fired Castro.
“I believe I was terminated because I did not go along with making my officers have a quota for citations,” Castro said in an interview with FOX 13.
According to FOX 13, Mantua sits in northern Utah on a stretch of road where U.S. highways 89 and 91 merge. The speed limit on the highway is 65 mph. The town has such a reputation as a speed trap, it was a reason the Utah Legislature in 2018 passed a bill banning ticket quotas at police departments.
Castro explained that as soon as he started as chief in Mantua, the mayor and a least one other city council member would push him to write more tickets. This is the reason Castro believes is what got the town known as a speed trap.
“From what I’ve been told every time is this is how they’ve conducted business for the last 30 years and the way they wanted to continue doing it,” Castro said.
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“It was never written down,” Castro says of a ticket mandate. “I was given two numbers always. Anywhere between three to five citations a day. My sergeant, when he was accepted to do full time, when he was granted the full-time position, was told six per shift.”
Castro was told the majority of the police department's entire annual budget of $195,000 would need to be made through ticket writing. This is in stark contrast to the budgets of other departments which are funded by property taxes.
“I was then told that the $110,000 out of that $195,000 was projection on citations from the police department,” Castro said.
To be clear, Castro wasn't refusing to do his job. He still had officers patrolling the streets and highways but instead of extorting citizens, his officers issued warnings.
In the letter from the mayor, these "warnings" were brought up by Johnson who wrote that “warnings should be the exception rather than the rule.” He would know this rule, as Johnson — before he was the mayor — was the town's police chief who helped Mantua earn its reputation as a speed trap.
After the controversy began to gain coverage in the media, this week, Johnson abruptly quit from his position as mayor. In his resignation letter, Johnson wrote he hoped divisiveness in the town can stop and healing can begin.
Johnson's last act as mayor was appointing the new police chief, who has likely been briefed on his duty to extort citizens or face the repercussions.
Mandating that officers issue citations and make arrests is nothing close to "protecting and serving." In fact, it's quite the opposite.
Requiring a minimum number of citations forces conflict and potentially hostile interactions in situations where their would otherwise be no conflict.
It truly forces police officers to create criminals out of innocent people in order to generate revenue, or they face losing their jobs.
Sadly Mantua is not some isolated incident. For years, TFTP has reported on these quota systems from coast to coast. As we just reported last June, the town of Ridgetop, Tenn. fired its entire police department after they refused to enforce an illegal quota scheme to line the pockets of city officials. If you truly want a glimpse into the mandated revenue collection schemes across the country and the penalties cops face for exposing them, take a look through our archives, here.