2nd FHP senior officer steps down over ticket quotas

By Troy Kinsey, Capitol Bureau Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 30, 2017, 10:51 PM EDT

A second member of the Florida Highway Patrol's top brass is stepping down after encouraging troopers to set ticket writing quotas, a practice forbidden by state law.

  • Second FHP senior member steps down after encouraging quotas
  • FHP deputy director submitted retirement letter Monday
  • Called on troopers to write two tickets per hour

Lt. Col. Michael Thomas, the FHP's deputy director, submitted a retirement letter Monday, shortly after it was discovered he penned emails calling on troopers to write two tickets per hour.

"Although Lieutenant Colonel Thomas’ emails were sent with the intention of ensuring accountability of our members and providing enhanced public safety, it was inappropriate to request a specific number of citations from our members," said the FHP's director, Col. Gene Spaulding. "FHP does not set quotas as part of its mission, therefore I have accepted Lieutenant Colonel Thomas’ request for early retirement."

Thomas' retirement follows the departure earlier this month of Maj. Mark Welch, who in May told troopers assigned to the Tallahassee-based Troop H to issue at least two tickets per hour. 

The revelation prompted Attorney General Pam Bondi to criticize Welch's guidance as "reckless."

"I just asked some troopers, 'hey, do you have quotas'? 'Absolutely not', without hesitation - and stupid statement," Bondi said during an Aug. 16 meeting of the Florida Cabinet.

Of particular concern for officials at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles -- the agency charged with oversight of the FHP -- is whether the improper instructions by Thomas and Welch have led rank-and-file troopers to integrate quotas into their patrols.

While tickets that may have been issued as a result of the instructions can't be voided, the department says it plans to handle quota-related personnel decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Additionally, DHSMV Director Terry Rhodes is ordering the FHP to integrate anti-quota language into its training program.

"FHP is going to be working with our department's learning and development office to ensure prohibition of quotas addressed with online training," Rhodes said. "The training will be required to be annually done by all FHP supervisors."