China Law and Governance Review
    A Publication of China Law and Development Consultants
December 2006 Issue No. 3   
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Heard on the Web: Beijing Police Abandons “Quota”
In July 2004, Ma Zhenchuan (马振川), the chief of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (北京市公安局), announced that his agency would abandon its long-standing quota system for traffic fines and criminal arrests and would adopt instead a system identifying hot spots of crime and public safety concerns based on periodic historical data assessments. (See the Beijing News 《新京报》, July 31, 2006.) Excessive and overzealous issuance of traffic fines by local police is among one of the top complaints among Chinese motorists. According to the Beijing News report, Ma revealed that his agency’s past practice of imposing quota for giving out traffic fines and making criminal arrests has been the prime target of public complaints. The quota system supposedly was adopted to motivate those law enforcement agents who were too lazy to do their jobs diligently (such as the “traffic cop who hides under the shade on a hot summer day”). The result, however, is that an entire month’s quota tends to be filled either at the beginning or the end of the month, giving the public the impression that the “police are thinking of every which way to fine people”, according to Ma. The following are excerpts of readers’ reaction to the Beijing News report :

□ Public security bureaus are not business enterprises. They should work on how to benefit the public who will only be satisfied when they feel safe. The “Traffic Safety Law” (交通安全法) clearly prohibits imposing quotas on traffic fines but the police practice still exists at the local level, only under a different disguise. To say that there is no more traffic fine quota is simply a joke.

□ Science and pragmatism have finally prevailed. I hope that not only Beijing will abandon the inappropriate quota system, but the Ministry of Public Security will also abolish the practice throughout the country. The primary responsibilities of public security bureaus should be preventing crime and protecting the legal rights of the public. Nowadays however, because most regions do not allocate sufficient funding for police operations, public security bureaus have to find money for themselves. This inevitably leads to the wrong focus of law enforcement, abuse of police power and fines instead of arrests. I have never heard of the police in any other country needing to fund their own operating budget. The reason for the tension between the police and the public is largely due to the fact that the primary goal of the police’s work is on imposing fines.. I recommend adopting a pragmatic approach in solving real problems and no longer imposing fines. This also represents the views of the majority of ordinary policemen.

□ According to the police’s logic, drivers should be treated by traffic cops like thieves—the more violators get caught, the more the fines and therefore higher profits. It appears that the beneficiary of traffic violations is really the police themselves. They are least inclined to improve traffic safety. They use the sovereign rights of the state as means to make money for themselves, at the expense of the interests of the state and the public. This explains why [the police impose] strange rules such as super low speed limits, etc.

□ [The police] had always insisted that there were no quotas. Now they are talking about abolishing the quota system. It was clearly a lie to begin with. How many more of such “currently non-existent but will be abolished in the future” type of rules are there that are being used to punish the ordinary folks?

□ I am a policeman from a local police station. I applaud the new policy of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. My office’s job should have been to ensure pubic safety and to prevent crimes in our precinct; however, because of the quotas we have for making criminal arrests, we focus on meeting the quotas all year round. Also, because the criminals in our precinct already know us well, they are hard to track. We had to go to other precincts to round up the criminals, which makes it impossible for us to focus on crime prevention in our own precinct. My office has a staff of over 40 and we have a quota of arresting 108 criminals a year. I wish we could also abolish the quota system and focus instead on maintaining public safety in our precinct.

□ Quotas are actually not so bad. It would be great if we can set quotas for central government level or ministry-level agencies on a regular basis every year. [They] can be fired if they do not meet the quotas.

□ The admission that “the police are thinking of every which way to fine people” is a reflection that the [Beijing] public security bureau is responding to public’s criticism. It has recognized its problems and is willing to make corrections. Other provinces and municipalities must also recognize the same problems in order to gain the support of drivers and the public, to improve the relationship between the police and the public and to build a harmonious society.

□ There should be an index for public safety not compiled by the police themselves, but one that would be more objective. According to requirements of ISO9000, the most basic [performance] measurement is customer satisfaction. The public’s sense of safety should be the most basic measurement.

□ There should be a rule that says whichever region or city imposes the highest traffic fines should be deemed to have the worst traffic safety and its head of traffic police should bear responsibility.

(Source: 《新浪网》, August, 2006. )



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