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8/7/2012Maryland: Cop Turns Against Photo Enforcement Program
Class action suit hopes to prove speed camera tickets were illegally issued in Riverdale Park, Maryland.
A police officer in Riverdale Park, Maryland refuses to be a party to fraud. According to a class action lawsuit filed yesterday in Prince George's County Circuit Court, Corporal Clayton Alford was put in the position of having his name signed to speed camera citations that he did not review. The suit seeks to nullify every photo ticket the town and for-profit vendor Optotraffic issued since the program began in 2010. That could cost the town significant cash as the cameras brought in $1.9 million in revenue last year -- thirty percent of Riverdale Park's budget.
Attorney Timothy P. Leahy, who filed the suit on behalf of ticket recipients, is armed with a smoking gun. He has emails that prove two non-police officers, Karen Coker and Tracy Perrin, issued citations after logging in under Alford's name while the officer was on vacation from February 17, 2011 to April 3, 2011. If proved, this violates Maryland Code Section 21-809, which explains a citation must include "a signed statement by a duly authorized law enforcement officer employed by or under contract with an agency that, based on inspection of recorded images, the motor vehicle was being operated in violation of this subtitle." Section 3-101 of the code defines the law enforcement officer as someone authorized to make arrests who works for the police department.
"Karen and I cleared out the approvals in queue over the weekend," Perrin wrote in a January 10, 2011 email to Optotraffic's liaison to Riverdale Park, Angenette Criner. "This morning we had a few Maryland tags on day 14. Want to make you aware so that changes can be made on your end."
This shows Optotraffic was aware Coker and Perrin were signing citations under Alford's name, even though the statute requires sign off on a ticket be "based on inspection of recorded images." Leahy cites sworn testimony of Optotraffic employees from a January 27 case involving Eastover Auto Supply.
"We do not use photos that are taken at two indpendent times to estimate speed," Optotraffic employee John O'Connor testified. "Why? Because it's inaccurate. You can't do it... The photo is actually just secondary evidence that the vehicle was there and it was in motion, that it was there at the time of the occurrence. The speed is actually done by time-distance by one lidar device that has two beams that's pointed down at the road. The speed of the vehicle is calculated at that point."
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