By Rob Port | Watchdog.org North Dakota Bureau
BISMARCK, N.D. — An attorney for a North Dakota Highway Patrol trooper who resigned earlier this week amid accusations he was faking tickets says an arrest and ticket quota policy is to blame, but the law enforcement agency says that policy doesn’t exist.
Jeremie Meisel resigned this week as Highway Patrol officials investigated accusations he was writing fake tickets.
According to the Fargo Forum, the matter was “first investigated by his supervisor who found it was a possibility that Meisel was writing the fake tickets.” The matter was then turned over to the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations, but a state prosecutor declined to press charges, saying he couldn’t build a case.
Meisel’s legal counsel, Bismarck attorney Chris Redmann, says his client was not writing fake tickets and called the Highway Patrol’s presentation of the matter “incredibly unbalanced.” He said the real culprit behind Meisel’s resignation are arrest quota policies, which, the Highway Patrol says, don’t exist.
“Jeremie was not falsifying reports, issuing illegal citations, or even inflating numbers,” Redmann told Watchdog in response to an emailed inquiry. “That’s evidenced by the fact the prosecutor’s office declined any and all charges.”
“The reason that we are declining charges is that based about the statute and the facts of the case we do not believe that we could secure a conviction,” Burleigh County State’s Attorney Richard Riha wrote to the BCI agent in charge of the investigation according to the Jamestown Sun.
“Jeremie is a Trooper who truly valued ‘quality of enforcement over quantity of enforcement,'” Redmann continued. “Unfortunately for Jeremie though, the notion of quality over quantity is a novel and rejected concept within the Highway Patrol command structure despite their own mission statement of ‘providing high quality law enforcement services.’ Because of his focus on ‘quality,’ he was put on a ‘hard’ quota system for not issuing enough administrative traffic tickets; essentially he wasn’t meeting the Highway Patrol’s de facto quota standards.”
The subject of arrest quotas has been a sensitive one for the Highway Patrol. In March, Watchdog was the first to report a memo circulated by Capt. Brian Niewind to troopers under his command. It set specific arrest number goals for infractions such as speeding, seatbelt violations, DUI violations and drug crimes. Highway Patrol officials confirmed this was a common policy throughout the state but disputed descriptions of the policy as arrest quotas.
“A quota is a hard number that does not fluctuate,” Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Tom Iverson said in response to a Watchdog inquiry in March. “A quota suggests a number that you ‘must’ achieve, or there will be consequences.”
Iverson declined an emailed request for comment on this story. “Out of respect to Mr. Meisel and our current employees, I will not be commenting on this statement,” he said. “This matter has been addressed and our agency would like to move forward.”
But it has since been revealed that troopers who fail to meet arrest goals face consequences.
“There could be what we call our action report, so written warnings might be issued,” Capt. Brian Niewind told Valley News Live last month. “On top of that, it might be suspensions and or termination from our organization.”
In an interview with Bismarck Tribune reporter Andrew Sheeler, Highway Patrol Col. Michael Gerhart confirmed similar goals exist for troopers working in other parts of the state. Still, Gerhart insists his agency is not incentivizing arrests.