Police Benevolent Labor Committee v. City of Sparta,

2020 IL 125508 (November 19, 2020)

By Don Zoufal, Legal Advisor

Uploaded November 23, 2020  

Also see this statement from Clark Baird Smith


On November 19, 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in the case of Police Benevolent Labor Committee v. City of Sparta, 2020 IL 125508 (November 19, 2020) concluding that the City of Sparta’s consideration of officer citation activity as part of a point-based system to evaluate officer performance was in violation of state law .  The Supreme Court directed the circuit court which had earlier affirmed the actions of the City of Sparta to enter a summary judgment against the City and in favor of the Union.  The decision in this case will impact point-based evaluation systems across the state where the department uses citation activity as a consideration in evaluating employee performance.

Facts of the Case

The case was brought by the Union in 2017, contending that Sparta’s point-based system for evaluating officer performance violated provisions of the 11-1-12 of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/11-1-12 (West 2016)) (the “Quota Act”).  The Quota Act which became effective January 1, 2015 prohibits municipalities from placing quotas on officers for the issuance of citations.  The Quota Act contains language prohibiting officers from being assigned ticket quotas, during their work shifts.  There is also language in the Quota Act which addresses consideration of citation activity in point-based evaluation systems.

The point-based system adopted by the City of Sparta in 2013 was discussed with the Union at the time. The City system looked at a range of officer activities in addition to citations.  Those activities included: traffic stops with written or verbal warnings; extra duty assignments (e.g. drug task force); court activities, training activities; etc.  It was undisputed that point-based system did not require an officer to issue any citations to meet point requirements.  Minimum point requirements for satisfactory job performance could be achieved without writing citations.   The Union’s sole contention was that the Quota Act prohibited the consideration of citation activity in any manner within the point-base evaluation system.

Procedural History

In 2017, over two years after the effective date of the Quota Act, the Union filed suit seeking to have the City of Sparta’s point-based activity system set aside as violative of the Quota Act.  The circuit court found the statute to be ambiguous with respect to prohibition of consideration of citation activity in point-based activity evaluation.  Based on the legislative history the circuit court concluded the legislature never intended to prohibit consideration of citation activity in a system like the one developed by the City and entered judgement in its favor.

The appellate court reversed the judgement of the circuit court, holding that the plain language of the Quota Act prohibited the practice of considering issuance of citations as part of a point-based assessment system.  The appellate court then directed the entry of a summary judgement in favor of the Union.  The Illinois Supreme court granted the City of Sparta’s Petition for Leave to Appeal and affirmed the decision of the appellate court.


The Supreme Court’s decision was based primarily on rules of statutory interpretation.  Because the Court concluded that the plain language of the Quota Act prohibited the consideration of citations in a point-based evaluation system, it held that it was bound to enforce the statute as written. The Supreme Court noted that positions advanced in an amicus brief filed by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (ILACP) raised important policy concerns, but the Court ultimately concluded it was bound by the statutory language.

We recognize the argument by amicus that a fair points policy must account for the full range of officer activity and that the failure to include issuance of citations as part of duty performance undercuts important traffic safety enforcement programs. While those arguments raise important considerations, we are bound by the plain statutory language and may not alter it based on our views of proper public policy.

The Court went on to suggest that the only remedy open to address the legitimate concerns of law enforcement was to take the matter to the legislature for relief.


At this juncture, absent some form of legislative relief, the consideration of citation issuance as part of point-based activity systems is prohibited.   As pointed out in the amicus filed by the ILACP, point-based activity systems like the one utilized in the City of Sparta are used by many other departments across the state.  Departments utilizing those systems should evaluate their point allocation practices considering the Illinois Supreme Court decision in this case. While the decision in this case does not preclude the use of point-based activity systems, it limits the ability to consider citation activity. If points are being allocated for citation activity those practices should be reviewed with counsel.

This case study was prepared by attorney Donald Zoufal for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. Zoufal is the legal advisor to the ILACP.