2/24/2012Maryland Lawmakers May End Police Camera Ticket Review
Maryland Senate committee considers legislation giving private companies full authority to decide speed camera guilt.
Lawmakers in Maryland began consideration of a measure that would grant private companies the full authority to issue speed camera tickets without even a cursory review by a police officer. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony Tuesday on Senate Bill 486, which deletes an existing provision of law that states a citation must be signed by a "duly authorized law enforcement officer" and replaces him with "an authorized person trained in speed monitoring system enforcement." That effectively gives private contractors full control of deciding guilt.
"Thus, in addition to shifting these duties from duly authorized police officers to other trained employees of the law enforcement agency, agencies are authorized to utilize private contractors for this service," the official legislative analysis of the bill explains. "This additional flexibility may result in greater savings than using existing staff or hiring additional personnel."
Currently, photo enforcement contractors provide, operate and maintain photo radar vans and stationary cameras. They mail citations, collect revenue and handle complaints. The change would leave municipalities with no significant role in the camera program. The legislation is being pushed by Gaithersburg, Laurel and Rockville. The city of Rockville raked in $2.1 million from speed camera tickets last year.
"Use of sworn officers for the administrative task of signing off on speed camera violations is a financial burden to police departments and not an optimal use of sworn officers," explained a December 12 memo from the Rockville city manager to the city council. "The proposed legislation would allow the Rockville city police to redeploy sworn police personnel who are currently approving speed camera violations. Under current staffing levels, if enacted, the legislation could save Rockville's police approximately $20,000."
The founder of the website Stop Big Brother Maryland testified against the proposed change Tuesday, offering the committee forty pages that document erroneously issued citations in Maryland.
"We need more accountability, not less," the site's founder testified. "If you want to provide more material for my website and help to increase the readership of StopBigBrotherMD.org, by all means approve this legislation. If you believe that money from the innocent is the same color as money from the guilty, then approve this legislation. But if you are concerned about the integrity of the system then please keep law enforcement in the hands of police."
If passed and signed by the governor, the law would take effect October 1. A copy of the measure is available in a 110k PDF file at the source link below.