"You cannot measure workload by any single number," Fairfax City Police Chief Richard Rappoport said, "because the job is just too varied for these kind of simplistic measures."
Rappoport faces many of the same traffic issues as Murray in Falls Church -- his city is six square miles and has little serious crime. Fairfax City urges its patrol officers to write an average of 1 1/2 tickets per day, or 28 a month, but Rappoport said that was "a pretty soft target."
Rappoport said if the quota is set "too high, you force people to play a game," and then officers would be staked out with radar guns only on the main thoroughfares. Instead, Fairfax City officers are assigned to park or patrol slowly in neighborhoods, which might not result in many tickets, but generates many compliments from residents.
Rappoport and Vienna Police Chief Robert A. Carlisle said they analyze other performance aspects, such as how many accidents officers worked, how many field contacts they developed, how many investigations they handled and how much self-initiated activity they were responsible for.
"I wouldn't expect two to three tickets a day," said Carlisle, whose officers patrol 4.4 square miles. "And if they did extremely well in other areas, they would get a good evaluation."
Murray noted that Falls Church officers are evaluated on various tasks, not just traffic enforcement. "It's one of five areas they're being evaluated on," Murray said, "to address a concern that is major to the citizens."
In each of five evaluation areas, Falls Church employees receive ratings from "exceeds expectations" down to "below expectations." The lowest rating in any area automatically places an employee in a Performance Improvement Plan, delaying any possible raise; all raises are tied to overall ratings.
"They've set an unattainable standard," Rhodes said. "A single 'BE,' which has predominantly been in the numbers category, has been bringing all the officers down."
Union leaders have raised the issue with police commanders, saying that not only are the goals difficult to reach -- a middle rating of "Meets expectations" requires at least 500 tickets or arrests in a year, and a top rating requires 600 -- but they affect the quality of police work. They said their alternate proposals were rejected.
Murray said that "many officers had no trouble meeting or exceeding" the quotas.
Dionne C. Williams, a Falls Church spokeswoman, said that because traffic is the community's chief concern, focusing on traffic enforcement is part of community policing.
Staff writers David Snyder and Del Quentin Wilbur contributed to this report.