3/12/2009Missouri Cops Oppose Red Light Cameras
Police in St. Louis, Missouri oppose red light camera program that legal advisors to camera firm operates illegally.
The St. Louis, Missouri Police Officers' Association on Monday spoke out against the use of red light cameras as a revenue raising tool. The police union adopted a resolution opposing automated ticketing as state lawmakers consider measures that would authorize use of the devices statewide. The group representing rank-and-file police officers stands in opposition to the high-ranking officials represented by the Missouri Police Chiefs' Association.
"Police chiefs serve at the pleasure of the mayor -- they're political jobs," said Jesse Irwin, co-founder of Missourians against Red Light Cameras. "I'm not surprised that the Missouri Police Chiefs' organization would be for the cameras. I'm also not surprised that the men and women out on the street enforcing the law would be against them -- they don't work."
Irwin's organization claims to have 500 members willing to circulate a petition that will force a referendum on the red light camera issue in St. Louis. The group is joined by Don't Tread on Me, another band of photo enforcement opponents in the city of Arnold who yesterday circulated documents showing that American Traffic Solutions (ATS) knew from the start that its ticketing program rested on a weak legal foundation. A May 2005 letter from ATS' law firm, Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP, explained that Missouri law does not allow red light cameras to issue tickets that carry only a monetary penalty. Six months later, Arnold became the first city in the state issuing automated fines with ATS in charge of the program.
"We do not believe, however, that the municipalities possess the authority to adopt an ordinance that would permit the municipality to circumvent the Missouri Director of Revenue's point system for the suspension and revocation motor vehicle licenses," Stinson Morrison Hecker attorney Stephen P. Chinn wrote. "Under current Missouri law, every court with jurisdiction over any state laws or county or municipal ordinances regulating the operation of vehicles on highways must report, to the Missouri Highway Patrol, a record of any plea or finding of guilty of any person convicted of any moving violation under the state, county or municipal regulations within ten days after the record is made... The mandatory language used in the text of the statute supports a conclusion that an ordinance of this nature would conflict with state law."
The legal opinion noted that a number of Jackson County judges also spoke out publicly against a 1992 photo radar proposal on the grounds that ignoring license points violated state law. Despite the clarity of the statutes involved, nearly two dozen Missouri cities have established automated ticketing programs that do not issue license points.
"It is appalling to think that the city council at that time had legal advice from ATS' own legal counsel stating what they were intending to do was illegal, and yet they disregarded it at the thought of how much cash these cameras could bring in to city coffers," Arnold City Councilman Matthew Hay said in a statement.
Although red light camera tickets in Missouri are vulnerable to court challenge, legislation including Senate Bill 58 and House Bill 241 would authorize their use.
An ATS spokesman said there was "nothing new" in the charges brought by the St. Louis and Arnold activists.
A copy of the legal opinion is available in a 500k PDF file at the source link below.