5/14/2008Louisiana: State Board Rules Against Traffic Camera Company
Louisiana state board rules that speed camera vendor needs to obtain private investigator licenses for its employees.
The Louisiana State Board of Private Investigator Examiners ruled yesterday that a photo enforcement company violated state law by operating without a license. Redflex is an Australian company that deploys speed camera vans throughout cities like Lafayette to generate traffic citations in return for a percentage of the revenue generated. After a three-hour hearing, board members unanimously determined that this business fit within the state's definition of private investigation.
"Redflex speed vans that are operating in the state of Louisiana must be licensed as private investigators," the board's administrative director Pat Englade told theNewspaper. "The company will need to seek an agency license or contract with someone in the state that already holds an agency license and all operators of the vans will need to be licensed as individual private investigators."
Redflex lobbyist Charlie Buckels, a powerful local political figure, had argued that speed camera van operators did not need licenses because they did not actually do any substantial work. Instead, they just drove to pre-determined locations and flipped a switch to activate the machinery (view interview with an operator).
"The 'Redflex Photo Speed System' is fully automated requiring no intervention by the driver after the system is operational and the drivers of the vans are not a part of the process of detecting and videotaping speeders," Buckels explained in a deposition.
That did not persuade Denice C. Skinner, the local activist who filed the original complaint against Redflex. Skinner explained that because the company frequently operates its photographic vans on the front lawns of residents, its employees should face greater scrutiny. Board-certified private investigators undergo exhaustive criminal background checks using information from law enforcement sources not generally available to private sector employers.
"Why wouldn't Redflex want to be a part of that?" Skinner told theNewspaper. "We have a group of professionals who agree that they should be private investigators. The board members are the experts established by state law."
Englade said that the board has not decided to impose criminal sanction on Redflex or its employees "at this time." The board may at its discretion impose the penalty of up to a year in jail and a $5000 fine on each employee found to be operating without a license. The state defines a private investigator as, "any person who... accepts employment to furnish information... with reference to... crimes or wrongs committed." (La. R.S. 37:3500-3525)