Monday, August 30, 2010

West Palm Beach cops (and regular folks) seeing red over red-light tickets

The Palm Beach Post's PageTwoLive columnist Jose Lambiet reports that cops in the City of West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County are learning the hard way that red-light cameras in West Palm Beach don't discriminate. Or play favorites.

And neither does WPB Police Assistant Chief Dennis Crispo.
Tired of lawmen trying to weasel out of paying, Assistant Chief Dennis Crispo last week sent a preachy letter to all other area chiefs and Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw to lay down the law.

“Please advise your members if they are captured on camera in their vehicles running the red-light at these intersections, they will be cited,” the letter reads. “The only remedy for relief will be through the traffic court system. All law enforcement personnel must understand the high standard of conduct is applied to them in order for the public to have confidence in their departments and the officers.

“This trust is a critical and precious commodity . . . and yet it is fragile and easily lost.”

So, what sparked the move? I’m told higher-ups at the WPBPD have been fielding dozens of requests from law enforcement agencies everywhere to “take care” of their red-light citations.
Crispo is not the first police official to issue such a warning to his officers.

In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Police Chief Greg Graham [told a local paper last June] "that the enforcement cameras had snapped photos of 26 Cedar Rapids police cars speeding or running red lights as of last week.

"No, these photos don’t immediately end up being tossed aside, the chief says."

But Chief Crispo's edict may not stifle the simmering outrage over, what many see, as the  growing intrusion of government into the daily lives of  its citizens.

In  South Florida, concerns are being raised over mechanically-issued traffic citations. Attorney Bret Lusskin writing in the Miami Herald calls red-light cameras, "the worst kind of government intrusion."
"These cameras represent the most egregious government intrusion into our lives of this generation. Since the dawn of civilization, government has claimed ``safety of the public'' as grounds for ever-increasing dominance. The notion of government surveillance cameras on every street corner is an Orwellian nightmare. Just about everyone who has received one of these loathsome tickets didn't deserve it. And with time, the abuses will only worsen."
It was Lusskin, who last February, fought and won against the City of Aventura's red-light cameras.

But last month, the Miami Herald's Kelly House wrote of one woman's rude awakening after being caught by red-light cameras:
[A] Sunny Isles Beach clothing salesman came home from work to find his pregnant wife sobbing, holding several tickets for failing to come to a complete stop at a camera-monitored red light in Aventura. After a $125 ticket in the mail the previous day, five more -- amounting to $1,875 more fines -- were dropped in the mailbox that afternoon.

All of them were for making only a rolling stop before a right turn at Aventura Boulevard and West Country Club Drive, nabbed by one of the red-light violation camera fast spreading throughout South Florida. And all were within a week long period.
Elsewhere, opposition to speeding and red-light cameras is showing up in extreme forms. The New York Times reported last year that "Doug Georgianni, 51, an employee of Redflex Traffic Systems, was shot [and killed] on April 19 as he operated a photo-enforcement van on a Phoenix highway." Just last week Georgianni's killer was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Hopefully the courts will rule against these cameras before that kind of thing happens here.

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