ST. CLOUD, Minn. - Motorists who drive the streets of St. Cloud, consider this your warning.
There will be no more warning tickets.
St. Cloud policemight handdrivers what's known as a "fix-it" ticket for an equipment violation, an actual ticket for a driving violation or a verbal warning, but written warnings for traffic violations are a thing of the past.
"There are a myriad of reasons," Police Chief Blair Anderson said. "Chief among them, honestly, is that's a practice that we stopped doing when I was in Dakota County in 1998. It's archaic. We don't need it."
A key purpose of recording written warning tickets used to be to collect data about who was being pulled over for use in racial profiling studies. But there are ways to collect that type of data without having officers write a warning ticket, which then must be entered into the department's computer system and database.
Once the officers wrote the ticket, "that written warning might go through several other hands, and to me that's not efficient," Anderson said.
One of the things Anderson vowed to do in his first 90 days as police chief was to look for efficiencies and streamline operations. And when he looked at how many work hours it took to write a warning ticket and then have it entered, it became clear that warning tickets were a low priority when some calls for service are waiting and there are more important things to do.
"The nature and volume of calls we take, anywhere that we can find efficiencies that will free up our officers to take calls and interact with the public, I'm going to use those," Anderson said.
He didn't immediately have the number of tickets that officers wrote in a given month or year. But there was "a backlog of a couple years' worth" of warning tickets that hadn't yet been entered into the computer system.
"What that tells me, more than anything, is that they're probably really not necessary," Anderson said of what that backlog meant.
And to anyone who says it's not such a big waste of time to write the tickets because they only take a couple minutes?
"A couple minutes, a few hundred times per person a year adds up to a lot of time," he said. "People have to take the totality of this. We're not just talking about one officer that's taking a couple minutes to write a warning ticket. We're talking about a staff of 100 officers and they're writing enough of them that it's a substantial time-saver. And I'm all about efficiency."