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Police retirement fund, county programs benefit from traffic ticket fines

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 6:43 PM
Last updated Thursday, June 13, 2013 1:42 AM
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Operation Thunder continued its gradual move this week from the streets of Augusta to the Richmond County courthouse, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in traffic fines being pumped back into local government.

Police officers operate a road check on Mike Padgett Highway during Operation Thunder, which got underway Feb. 14.   TODD BENNETT/FILE
TODD BENNETT/FILE
Police officers operate a road check on Mike Padgett Highway during Operation Thunder, which got underway Feb. 14.

For every citation issued during the three-month enforcement blitz, more than 13,000 police officers, sheriffs and Superior Court clerks across Georgia will see a slight increase in their retirement pay.

Two dollars go to the each of the state retirement funds for Georgia’s 159 elected sheriffs and Superior Court clerks, including Richmond County’s own Richard Roundtree and Elaine S. Johnson.

The profits are higher for the officers issuing tickets. State records show they get 5 percent of paid traffic fines, through a pension known as the Georgia Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund.

The General Assembly and Gov. Herman Talmadge created the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit in 1950 as a supplemental retirement fund. Today, the account has 13,942 active members, a retirement roll of 4,525 officers and assets nearing $580 million.

“The fund is not an incentive to write traffic tickets, by any stretch,” Executive Director Bob Carter said. “Most officers do not even realize the fund is in part funded by traffic ticket fines.”

Carter said Wednesday that the pension this year added 313 certified law enforcement officers from city, county and state agencies. The maximum monthly benefit a member can receive after a 30-year membership is $732.30.

Though the profits might seem marginal, fines can add up quickly. During Operation Thunder, 2,290 citations were issued for various offenses, including impaired driving, seat-belt violations and suspended licenses.

The court system collected $404,062 in criminal fines, advance ticket payments and partial fees in May, the first month Operation Thunder defendants began appearing before a judge.

Though the May total was less than the amount collected in March ($483,545) and April ($468,033), the numbers are expected to pick up for June and July, when the bulk of Operation Thunder’s payment deadlines and court hearings are scheduled.

For example, Jerry Spalding was ticketed for traveling 60 mph on a 45 mph stretch along Tobacco Road in Hephzibah on April 1. More than two months later, his case is just now making it to court.

“I understand there is a big ticket blitz,” Spalding said. “If the county is going to get some extra money, I hope they make sure it goes where it is supposed to go.”

Before a traffic fine makes it back to local coffers, fees from the base fine are cut four ways, with victim restitution coming first, said Kristy Key, the accounting supervisor at the Richmond County Clerk of Court’s office. Five percent of that base fine goes to the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund and $2 goes to each of the state retirement funds for sheriff and Superior Court clerk.

The state levies a surcharge on top of all citations and takes home 40 percent of the ticket price to finance peace officer and prosecutor training, indigent defense costs, jail construction and staffing, local victim assistance programs and county law libraries.

After all state fees are paid, the Richmond County General Fund sees its share.

“This priority schedule and all of the funds apply to any criminal offense,” Key said. “It does not matter if a person is fined in Superior or State Court for a misdemeanor or felony charges.”

Additional charges are collected by the state to fund driver education, brain and spinal injury trusts, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Lab.

FEE DISTRIBUTION

After victim restitution is paid, Richmond County criminal fines, advance ticket payments and partial fees are distributed among 11 funds. The funds, listed in the order of priority of payment, and how much they received in the past three months:

MarchAprilMay
Peace Officer Annuity $17,845 $17,165 $14,898
Clerk retire $3,565 $3,652 $4,001
Sheriff retirement $3,644 $3,683 $3,070
Prosecution and Indigent Defense $69,386 $66,084 $56,483
Jail $34,652 $33,152 $28,263
Victim assistance $15,575 $15,704 $13,211
Law library $9,059 $9,245 $7,601
County $306,749 $296,562 $255,853
Crime lab $1,188 $1,434 $1,187
Brain/spinal trust $1,833 $2,446 $2,310
Driver education $14,470 $13,929 $12,504
Total $483,545 $468,033 $404,062

Source: Richmond County Clerk of Court’s office

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thauch12
6138
Points
thauch12 06/12/13 - 07:13 pm
14
6
Anyone still believe our oh

Anyone still believe our oh so wonderful local motorcycle Gestapo writes these tickets to "keep us safe?" It's all just a money-making racket at the end of the day...

luvmykitty
63
Points
luvmykitty 06/12/13 - 07:26 pm
10
5
guess they will finally get

guess they will finally get out of the donut shop and get some more tickets written to get mor retirement pay, yeah it isn't about our safety at all. this is my opinion and statement only

GiantsAllDay
9060
Points
GiantsAllDay 06/12/13 - 11:07 pm
13
4
What's the difference between

What's the difference between a mob shakedown and what these cops are doing?

rational thought trumps emotion
2459
Points
rational thought trumps emotion 06/12/13 - 11:37 pm
10
11
Better solution to saving lives and enforcing laws?

The police enforce the laws as written and could care less where the fees go or what is charged and until a better system of compliance of our laws comes around, fines are the answer. Of course, everyone has an option of following the law and not being ticketed or they can choose community service instead of paying a fine if they prefer. You just might be able to read or post to this article thanks to the many lives saved (over a 60% reduction in roadway fatalities compared to last year) because of the many hardworking deputies and police officers.

You can see where the money goes. It is very clear that it doesn’t go back to the Sheriff’s Office, with the exception of a very small portion that can be used in jail construction. As for 5% going to the POAB (Police Officers Annuity – Retirement Fund), that is only for officers around the state who are members and pay the fees in order to obtain that great check for $700.00 per month after serving the community for 30 or more years. It is an opt-in program that frankly most officers can’t even afford because they need every penny of their check just to get by, especially in Richmond County which is shown by the fact that not even 25% of the officers around the state are even part of the POAB fund. The same goes for the state Sheriff's fund and Clerks Fund which covers all Sheriff's/Clerks in the state with $2.00 of any citation written anywhere in the state.

So many complain about drunk drivers, unsecured babies, speeders on HWY 56 and many others places and yet when the police take action to solve these problems, the complaints come in that they are only doing it for money. The simple answer is that if people would slow down, not drink and drive, buckle up and follow the basic laws of the roadway then traffic enforcement would be a non-issue.

scoopdedoop64
2353
Points
scoopdedoop64 06/12/13 - 11:41 pm
11
6
Yep

Yep, this just proves what we all already knew. Ticketing is not to make us safe; it is to line the pockets of all those government employees. Anytime you reward police for the amount of tickets they hand out you have totally removed the legitimacy of the fines in the first place. It's disgusting to me.

thauch12
6138
Points
thauch12 06/12/13 - 11:59 pm
13
5
There's no excuse.

Unfortunately we live in a day and age where the Gestapo..err I mean RCSO enforces laws COMPLETELY arbitrarily. Depending on what the guy had for lunch/if he likes the color of your car/if he knows your second uncle Al/if you have a certain sticker/if he buys your excuse, everyday citizens' lives can be dramatically altered. Moreover, the town is covered with speed traps (I mean is there seriously any justification for why the speed limit suddenly dips to 35 on Riverwatch Parkway for 100 feet below the I-20 bridge and then suddenly goes back to 45?)

Add to it the fact these guys get a personal gain from EVERY ticket they write, and it is quite obvious why so many do not trust these clowns.

And please don't give these guys too much credit. To claim that they are responsible for a "60% reduction in roadway fatalities" is at best a crass unprovable assumption (after all this could be due to a variety of things or even a statistical anomaly) and at worst an outright lie.

Thanks to the AC for doing some proper investigative reporting!

gargoyle
13327
Points
gargoyle 06/13/13 - 12:32 am
9
4
Every day I feel more and

Every day I feel more and more like livestock fleeced by government never-ending addiction to power and money. My safety seems to be dependent on any given agency's size and affluence and the dollars that can be made enforcing laws. The way it seems to be heading the day we stop producing for the farmer he'll set the wolfs on us, in other words if a criminal act doesn't make money for enforcers no one will care to enforce it. I believe the slippery slope started with elected officials placing more importance on crony capitalism than public safety .Dollars that were diverted from local and state police departments had to be made up and they have gotten very good at making up the shortfall.

Riverman1
79153
Points
Riverman1 06/13/13 - 02:47 pm
10
4
Not A Problem

I detest the checkpoints because I believe they violate the Bill of Rights in a direct manner going against the exact government behavior the writers of the Constitution were concerned about. However, law enforcement such as writing tickets for speeders and other violators that the officer observes is not in that category. If you want safe roads support the officers enforcing the law.

Drive on Ft. Gordon and you will notice few speeders and other law breakers. It's due to heavy enforcement and everyone knows about it. Thus it's a safer place to drive.

The important fact about the fines is it's saving taxpayer money. Good work.

jackrussell
219
Points
jackrussell 06/13/13 - 06:14 am
8
7
If you only knew as much as you think you know.

The cops who are actually writing the tickets don'get on for those tickets. The STATE, the Sheriff, and other government agencies get the money. As was stated earlier, if you obey the laws, you won't get a ticket. Get off your high horses and take responsibility for yourselves.

jackrussell
219
Points
jackrussell 06/13/13 - 06:18 am
7
6
...don't get one extra penny for tickets written.

Dagum phone. And, have you ANY idea how many WARNINGS are given. If you want to be mad, mad at the system, not the poor guy enforcing the laws.

Bodhisattva
5568
Points
Bodhisattva 06/13/13 - 06:23 am
10
6
Drive on Fort Gordon and

Drive on Fort Gordon and you'll notice few speeders and law breakers because the rules are enforced twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. I can also say that in two different jobs, working there for a total of around five years, I never saw a roadblock. What we saw here was the Governor flexing the muscle of the cops with a plus side of telling the cops it'll add thousands of dollars to their coffers. These people should be on a salary or a specified hourly pay rate with a specified retirement plan, not a plan that gets boosted with a bounty system. It's bad enough having a system that gets them nicer cars and equipment, but to have money go straight into their pockets? The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety came up the Operation Thunder. We can be sure Nathan will brag to law enforcement how much money he brought to their coffers when election time roles around.

nocnoc
38240
Points
nocnoc 06/13/13 - 06:40 am
9
3
Sounds like there is a $$$$

Sounds like there is a $$$$ incentive or at at least peer pressure to write tickets ?

What about
O.C.G.A. § 15-16-4 (2011). Oath of Office
O.C.G.A. § 45-3-1 (2011). Oath of Office
O.C.G.A. § 45-10-20 (2011) Conflicts of Interest

janderson1945
1819
Points
janderson1945 06/13/13 - 08:38 am
7
4
People don’t know what

People don’t know what personal responsibility and accountability are anymore. Just like the few complainers here, the same complaints are levied when kids get in trouble at school or anything else these days, there is always some reason or excuse other than the person at fault. These people knew the law, chose to break the law, they got caught, fined and then complain? Give me a break; they deserve to be held accountable. I am all for persons who sped, drive drunk and tailgate or break the other laws paying these fees instead of it coming from my taxes.

JRC2024
7934
Points
JRC2024 06/13/13 - 09:03 am
9
2
If you drive drunk you

If you drive drunk you deserve a big ticket. You know the danger to the public and to you. A few miles over the speed limit-No. As much as I drive all day all over the CSRA I never ran into a roadblock. I guess I was lucky.

seenitB4
81048
Points
seenitB4 06/13/13 - 09:33 am
8
3
We complained about Mike Padgett

We complained on here big time & they did something....sooo here we are fussing again....as much as I hate gov ckpoints....they are necessary sometimes....& in Richmond county I would say VERY much necessary.......they probably picked up a lot of trouble makers with stolen guns.

lifelongresident
1317
Points
lifelongresident 06/13/13 - 09:47 am
1
0
$$$
Unpublished

now the truth comes to light, when the local and state gov'ts need more money to increase their pensions....up pops check points..as they say "all in the name of safety" but actually its all "in the name of money" meanwhile down on broad street, east boundry, and all local "gubiment housin pra-jecks" nook-nook and his cohorts are robbing, selling drugs, breaking into law-abiding citizens homes, and raping becasue to arrest them would cost the county and state money.....as opposed to writing tickets at check points which makes the county and state money....

justthefacts
20255
Points
justthefacts 06/13/13 - 09:57 am
6
4
Very slippery slope

"....& in Richmond county I would say VERY much necessary...."

itsanotherday1
40055
Points
itsanotherday1 06/13/13 - 09:59 am
10
1
I'm with River on this; it

I'm with River on this; it isn't the end result that bothers me, it is the method. It is difficult to argue with the results of nabbing a number of people with outstanding warrants, driving without license, no insurance, etc.; but our constitutional rights are still more important.

I got popped fair and square a few weeks ago by ColCo, so I can say without equivocation that I don't mind traffic enforcement done the right way. I had not gotten a ticket in many years, not by luck, but by not speeding. Why I had my head up you know where that day I don't know, but when when I met the motorcycle and looked down, I was running 60 in a 45, 61 by his calculations. That is on a road that I always fume at other drivers tailgating me when I'm doing 50, and no where to pass.

We were polite and courteous to each other, and he bumped it down to 59 for me so it wouldn't go on my insurance.

THAT is good traffic enforcement, not Gestapo like checkpoints.

Little Lamb
43813
Points
Little Lamb 06/13/13 - 10:04 am
8
3
Riverwatch

If you are traveling west on Riverwatch Parkway from downtown, they have a speed trap waiting for you. Out of the blue the speed limit drops from 55 to 45 around a curve (several hundred feet before the light at River Shoals Pkwy.). The popo hide behind the curve and you are a sitting duck. Yesterday around 2:20 p.m. I saw two vehicles stopped with blue lights flashing between Alexander Drive and I-20 at the same time.

seenitB4
81048
Points
seenitB4 06/13/13 - 10:16 am
5
1
Hey yall

Riverman is NOT always right about everything...haheheha

justthefacts
20255
Points
justthefacts 06/13/13 - 10:43 am
5
0
Seen it

Yeah, he's a Clempson fan...............

seenitB4
81048
Points
seenitB4 06/13/13 - 11:51 am
4
1
Yeh JTF

Not the brighest bulb in the pack....lol

I get emails telling me that he is wrong & I am right in our debates.....they just know how ornery he is & they won't put their opinions on here...(ooohh boy)

resident
470
Points
resident 06/13/13 - 12:21 pm
7
4
Fines should not be used to finance

These fine should not be used to finance expensive pension funds. They should be used to pay for safety education (yes), they should be used in the county issued (yes), they should not be used to pay for state programs we already pay taxes to everything Atlanta (definitely not), they should be used for jail repairs (maybe), they should pay for cruiser upgrades/repairs (maybe). If the intent is to send a message then lets not make it a system that rewards quotas, let's make it a system that the funds pay for things such as roadblocks (maybe should be an outside normal hours for an officer's day) This way they can focus on SAFETY as they are supposed to and then volunteer to work say 2 or 4 hours extra with pay coming from this ticket fines source. I think the judges, Lawyers, Solicitors, Sheriffs and those types are paid enough already with their lovely state pensions. No extra money should ever go to unions from this kind of money because as already mentioned by others it supports a crooked system of quotas and peer pressure for the wrong reason.

american rose
237
Points
american rose 06/13/13 - 12:40 pm
8
1
My problem is

My problem is that I still don't see the officers enforcing the handicap parking. In Columbia County, the fine is $125.00 if you don't have a tag or sticker to hang on your mirror. There is a reason for these parking spots and it is not because you have a bunch of kids.

Sweet son
9661
Points
Sweet son 06/13/13 - 01:19 pm
7
2
All of the fine money should

go back into the RC general fund. Most everybody else has to have savings, CDs or 401Ks to supplement their retirements.

storiesihaveread
332
Points
storiesihaveread 06/13/13 - 02:01 pm
3
6
Whine Whine Whine

First of all in order to be pulled by an officer from RCSD, CCSD, BCSD etc you must be doing 10 or miles above the posted speed limit. State Patrol can pull you over for doing anything above the posted speed limit. So that brings the next part of the post. It is too simple do not speed. Case closed I won!!

justthefacts
20255
Points
justthefacts 06/13/13 - 02:20 pm
7
3
Hmm

Ah there, stories, you do understand this article is about Operation Thunder. I doubt that anyone "pulled" by an office was going 10 miles over the limit. If so, it would have been quite a mess.

seenitB4
81048
Points
seenitB4 06/13/13 - 03:30 pm
5
2
To those who don't know us

Or new posters...

We are joking about Riverman......he is smarter than the average bear..

csraguy
2085
Points
csraguy 06/13/13 - 03:50 pm
4
2
Justthe facts

The articles fees cover ALL citations from RCSO, GSP, etc. from OT and regular patrol; that is why speeding was included.

As for funding a pension fund for police, the officers must join, pay $50.00 monthly for 30 years and then they will get $725.00 a month in retirement. The fee from a ticket does not change the amount they will receive nor give them any incentive to write one.

As many others said, obey the rules of the road for the safety of all and you have no need to worry about fines. And, I agree that I would rather fines funds these needs instead of my tax dollars.

Sweet son
9661
Points
Sweet son 06/13/13 - 06:31 pm
2
0
@storiesihaveheard

One mile over the speed limit is breaking the law. Any law enforcement officer can pull you over for any speed over the limit. And most law enforcement agencies allow for differences in radar/laser vs speedometer readings. No trooper is going to pull you over for 1 mile over the speed limit. Ten miles over the speed limit in any jurisdiction including the State Patrol is just a courtesy to be sure that speed measuring devices indicate a more than casual violation of the speed limit!

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