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Michael Thomas, 2nd in Command at FHP, Resigns Over Ticket-Quota Inquiry

| August 30, 2017

The Florida Highway Patrol's Michael Thomas, right, when FHP Director David Brierton promoted him in 2011. (FHP)

The Florida Highway Patrol’s Michael Thomas, right, when then-FHP Director David Brierton promoted him in 2011. The current director is Gene Spaulding. (FHP)

The second-highest ranking officer in the Florida Highway Patrol is stepping down after acknowledging he wrote an email in May encouraging troopers to write at least two tickets per hour.

In the latest fallout from an ongoing investigation into whether troopers were told to meet a traffic-ticket quota, Lt. Col. Michael Thomas, a 30-year veteran and deputy director for the FHP, submitted a letter of resignation on Monday, indicating his last work day will be Friday.

In reviewing emails, Thomas said he found a May 31 email referring to a special program, known as the Statewide Overtime Action Response, aimed at curbing speeders. The email said, in part, “so we can encourage our members to maintain our 2.0 citations per hour ratio, as we attempt to provide a safer driving environment for Floridians.”

“In hindsight, I can see how this memo sent to the chiefs (regional commanders) could have been interpreted as an order for their supervisors to ask for 2.0 citations per hour,” Thomas said in his resignation letter. “This was a grave error on my behalf and should not be considered a negative reflection on the chiefs or other members of command that may have sent similar emails.”

“I made this mistake and take responsibility for my actions,” he added.

Thomas’ resignation came after Maj. Mark Welch, a troop commander who oversees eight counties near Tallahassee, announced his resignation earlier this month, after acknowledging he sent a July 28 memo to troopers that they interpreted as a mandate for a ticket quota, which is illegal under state law.

“The patrol wants to see two citations each hour,” Welch wrote. “This is not a quota; it is what we are asking you to do to support this important initiative.”

After Welch’s memo was brought to the attention of Terry Rhodes, executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which oversees the FHP, she directed the agency’s staff to review whether there had been any other directives that could be viewed as a quota.

“You have my commitment here today that no quotas will be tolerated within the Florida Highway Patrol,” Rhodes told Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members, who oversee her agency, during an Aug. 16 meeting.

The subsequent review turned up Thomas’ May 31 email, which was sent without the authorization of Col. Gene Spaulding, director of the FHP.

“Although Lt. Col. 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,” Spaulding said in a statement.

“FHP does not set quotas as part of its mission, therefore I have accepted Lt. Col. Thomas’ request for early retirement,” he said.

Spaulding noted Thomas’ “dedication and commitment” to FHP during his 30-year career, saying it “will not be forgotten.”

The FHP’s review of directives that could involve ticket quotas is continuing, with agency officials saying any further personnel decisions will be made on a “case by case” basis.

–Lloyd Dunkleberger, News Service of Florida

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4 Responses for “Michael Thomas, 2nd in Command at FHP, Resigns Over Ticket-Quota Inquiry”

  1. Lonzo brown says:

    They should be writing 4 per hour the way speeders fly everywhere

  2. Go Speed Racer says:

    Injustice by Law Enforcement is just wrong. But come on’ these guys don’t need quotas to bust speeders in Florida. They could do probably write up four an hour with their eyes closed. This is just politics at its worst.

  3. Seminole 36 says:

    I witness so many infractions every time I pull onto I-95, or most any FL road for that matter, that he should probably have resigned for having even suggested a quota, unless he was perhaps hinting that a minimal effort be made by troopers to cite the flagrant violators that populate the highways and byways in this state. Lord, politics in policing is just wrong. I’m sure most readers have witnessed law enforcement officers of all ranks in their cars failing to cite motorists that fail to signal a lane change, make right hand turns from the left lane, make excessive noise (mufflers? what are those?), expel noxious, black exhaust and on and on. I’m sure Michael Thomas meant to light a fire under troopers that otherwise would just be punching a clock or looking for that ‘big collar’ that would earn them something other than an ‘attaboy’ from their commanders. Sorry to lose a good man…

  4. Staying alive on I95 says:

    So he knows setting quotas is illegal then writes an email setting a quota but clearly states that it is not a quota. This man has a career in Washington DC!

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