2014 Data: Mid-Missouri police department had 100% ticketing rate
NEW FLORENCE - When most people see the flashing lights of a police officer pulling them over in their rearview mirror, they hope he or she lets them off with a warning.
But data released by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster earlier this week revealed drivers pulled over in a small Montgomery County city didn't get a single warning from its police department in 2014.
New Florence, with a census-determined population of 769, is about 55 miles east of Columbia on Interstate 70. Its police department reported 99 traffic stops to the state, giving 99 citations and zero warnings to drivers.
In comparison, nearby small town police departments like Auxvasse (census-determined population 983), Laddonia (population 513), High Hill (population 195) and Jonesburg (population 768) reported giving more warnings than citations in 2014.
A few other law enforcement agencies in Missouri reported zero warnings in 2014, including nearby Bellflower (versus six citations) in Montgomery County and Prairie Home in Cooper County (versus 25 citations).
Around a quarter of the traffic stops made by the New Florence Police Department were on Interstate 70, according to the data.
New Florence Police Chief David Ingle said his department is a small, part-time agency. He said his officers participate in traffic safety campaigns with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, including enforcement on I-70, but said his officers still have discretion when it comes to writing tickets.
"I don't have a policy in place that takes away the ability of officers to give warnings," Ingle said.
Ingle said the department tries to maximize its efforts when officers are on duty.
"When we're on, we try to look for violations," he said.
New Florence resident Janie Ray said she's been pulled over by New Florence police years ago but did not get a ticket. She said she doesn't hear too many complaints about police from local residents but said the lack of warnings isn't fair.
"I think there needs to be something done with it," Ray said. "They don't complain too much around here, but there's an awful lot of them standing out here for court."
New Florence Mayor John Burroughs said he thinks the police department and its chief do a good job.
"I think he's good, probably the best we've had in New Florence for a long time," Burroughs said.
Burroughs said the city's budget is tight, but the town does not use its police department to generate revenue.
"I have no idea what they bring in, I don't question them on that, because I do trust them," Burroughs said. "I wish we could afford a full-time police department."
Burroughs said he regularly sees traffic speed through the town. He said anyone who doesn't want to get a ticket simply shouldn't speed.
"I hear a lot of sob stories from people, 'well I can't afford this ticket'," Burroughs said. "Then why did you go get it?"
Burroughs said New Florence is not a speed trap. He said officers are simply enforcing the law.
"If you're doing over the speed limit, there's a real good chance you're going to get a ticket," Burroughs said. "That's not a speed trap."
KOMU 8 News put in a public records request for New Florence's traffic citation revenues Thursday and has not received any documents.