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Items filtered by date: Friday, 01 September 2017
 
 
 
 
A growing controversy over illegal ticket quotas at the Florida Highway Patrol has cost a second high-ranking trooper his job — this time the agency's No. 2 official.
 
Lt. Col. Mike Thomas, the FHP's deputy director, took early retirement as of Sept. 1 and accepted responsibility for an internal email that encouraged troopers to write at least two tickets an hour, even though quotas are forbidden by law.
 
"This was a grave error on my behalf," Thomas said in a letter of retirement dated Monday and released Tuesday. "I made this mistake and take responsibility for my actions. This error has negatively impacted the patrol's image, which was never the intent, but I feel it is in the best interest of the patrol that I retire."
 
Thomas added that he felt it was detrimental to describe "goal setting, or the setting of expectations, as a quota."
 
What led to the abrupt end of a three-decade career was Thomas' one-paragraph email on May 31 in which he told six high-ranking colleagues "to encourage our members to maintain our 2.0 citations per hour ratio as we attempt to provide a safer driving environment for Floridians."
 
One recipient of that email was Thomas' boss, Col. Gene Spaulding, director of the patrol.
A spokeswoman for Spaulding, Beth Frady, said she could not comment on why Spaulding didn't act on the email when he received it, and was not sure that Spaulding had seen it.
 
In a statement Tuesday, Spaulding said of Thomas: "It was inappropriate to request a specific number of citations from our members."
 
The patrol is still reviewing to see if other administrators gave a similar two-tickets-an-hour edict, raising the possibility that more premature retirements may be on the way.
 
Thomas grew up in working-class Homestead where he said a state trooper was a personal role model who joked about a "curfew" so that teenagers wouldn't be roaming the streets late at night.
 
After serving in the Navy, Thomas joined the FHP and patrolled the busy highways of Miami-Dade and Broward counties for many years, recalling one very difficult July when he had to notify relatives of seven people who died in car crashes.
 
Thomas becomes the second high-ranking FHP official to lose his job and his six-figure salary in two weeks. Thomas was making $131,000 a year.
 
A veteran FHP major under Thomas' command, Mark Welch, saw his 35-year career abruptly end two weeks ago after the Times/Herald reported that he sent a July 28 email to dozens of troopers in an eight-county region that officers said was a mandate for quotas, which are illegal under state law.
 
"The patrol wants to see two citations each hour," Welch wrote to troopers who work on an overtime detail known as SOAR, or Statewide Overtime Action Response, a taxpayer-funded initiative to improve highway safety. "This is not a quota; it is what we are asking you to do to support this important initiative."
 
In a recent Times/Herald interview, Thomas downplayed the significance of Welch's email and called it "more of a want" than a quota.
 
The goal, Thomas explained, is for troopers to spend less time in their black and tan cruisers and more time talking to drivers. "Stop some people. Talk to them. Educate them," Thomas said.
 
The Times/Herald obtained two more internal FHP emails in which FHP supervisors in Miami-Dade congratulated troopers for meeting or exceeding goals for traffic stops and as a result were allowed to switch their days off from weekdays to more favorable weekend.
 
Spaulding said that was not a reward, and that troopers have never been given incentives to write tickets.
 
Spaulding's boss, Terry Rhodes, executive director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, reiterated Tuesday: "Quotas are not legal and are not tolerated within the Florida Highway Patrol."
 
The idea of ticket quotas in Florida has caused an uproar with the motoring public, prompted criticism from key legislators. It also could be detrimental to Florida's image as a haven for tourists. Gov. Rick Scott has said the state is on pace to set an all-time record for out-of-state visitors in 2017.
 
Asked Tuesday about the sudden retirement, Scott's office provided a two-sentence statement: "FHP personnel decisions are made by FHP. Gov. Scott knows that Director Rhodes and Col. Spaulding are 100 percent dedicated to the safety of Floridians and visitors."
 
Florida had more than 3,000 traffic fatalities in 2016, the highest number for any year. Yet for the past three years, the number of traffic citations written by state troopers has steadily declined, in large part because of rampant turnover in the ranks that is attributed to a low starting salary.
 
Scott will ask the Legislature next session to boost the starting salary of a trooper from $38,000 to $42,000 a year.
 
Steve Bousquet 
 watchdog.org
Published in General/Features
Saturday, 02 September 2017 05:54

September 13 is Uncle Sam Day !

 
 
 
September 1813, the United States gets its nickname, Uncle Sam.  
 
Uncle Sam, might even be the most recognized person in the world, easily the most recognized of all American symbols. The name is linked to Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York, who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812. Wilson (1766-1854) stamped the barrels with “U.S.” for United States, but soldiers began referring to the grub as “Uncle Sam’s.” The local newspaper picked up on the story and Uncle Sam eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the U.S. federal government.
 
The most famous image of Uncle Sam was created by artist James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960). In Flagg’s version, Uncle Sam wears a tall top hat and blue jacket and is pointing straight ahead at the viewer. During World War I, this portrait of Sam with the words “I Want You For The U.S. Army” was used as a recruiting poster. The image, which became immensely popular, was first used on the cover of Leslie’s Weekly in July 1916 with the title “What Are You Doing for Preparedness?” The poster was widely distributed and has subsequently been re-used numerous times with different captions.
 
Wilson died at age 88 in 1854, and was buried next to his wife Betsey Mann in the Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, New York, the town that calls itself “The Home of Uncle Sam.”
 
In 1989 a joint resolution of Congress designated September 13 “Uncle Sam Day”.  This date was selected, as “Uncle Sam” Wilson was born on September 13, 1776.
 
 
By the President of the United States of America
Proclamation 6016
Uncle Sam Day, September 5, 1989
 
The tall, white-haired figure of Uncle Sam -- his stern, sagacious face graced by a flowing beard, and his distinguished top hat adorned by stars and stripes -- is a beloved symbol of the United States. Recognized around the world, the striking visage of Uncle Sam recalls the pride and strength of the American people, as well as the freedom we enjoy.
 
One of the most familiar renditions of Uncle Sam is found on the James Montgomery Flagg recruitment poster used during World War I and World War II. With its now-famous headline, "Uncle Sam Wants You," this poster urged men and women to help defend our way of life by enlisting in the Armed Forces. Today, the figure of Uncle Sam continues to remind us of the great risks and personal sacrifices endured by generations of Americans in the quest for liberty.
 
In 1961, the Congress recognized Samuel Wilson of Troy, New York, as the progenitor of this celebrated American symbol. Hardworking and self-reliant, Samuel Wilson was a man of unwavering integrity. He was also an important source of food for the Army during the War of 1812. The marking "U.S." stamped on casks of meat that his packinghouse prepared for American troops represented "Uncle Sam" to many soldiers and eventually the name was associated with the U.S. Government itself.
 
During Samuel Wilson's lifetime, which spanned the exciting years of 1766 to 1854, Americans won our country's independence; formed a system of self-government under our great Constitution; explored and settled the frontier; and raised the hopes of freedom-loving peoples around the world. Because the character derived from his nickname embodies the proud and industrious spirit of the American people, it is fitting that we pause to remember "Uncle Sam" Wilson and his place in our Nation's history.
 
To honor Samuel Wilson on the anniversary of his birth and the occasion of the bicentennial of the City of Troy, New York, the Congress, by Public Law 100-645, has designated September 13, 1989, as "Uncle Sam Day" and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this event.
 
Now, Therefore, I, George Bush, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 13, 1989, as Uncle Sam Day and call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
 
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this fifth day of September, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fourteenth.
george bush signature
Published in Lifestyle

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