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5/26/2015
North Carolina: Audit Finds Flaws In One Out Of Five Speeding Tickets
Uncalibrated radar guns responsible for 19 percent of speeding tickets issued in Asheville, North Carolina according to city audit.

Asheville police car
Nearly one out of five speeding tickets issued by police in Asheville, North Carolina between 2011 and 2014 were invalid. After being questioned by WLOS-TV and the district attorney's ofice, the Asheville Police Department hired a firm to conduct an independent audit of the citations. The results, released earlier this month, found discrepancies that rendered the evidence inadmissible.

"The audit points out a number of short comings within the department, primarily dealing with management and supervisory practices, radar certifications, officer certification tracking, citation review and tracking and training," interim police chief Steve Belcher wrote in a memo to the city council.

Fifty-four of the tickets were issued by police officers who were not certified to use the laser or radar gun. Another 482 were issued based on the reading of an uncalibrated laser or speed gun. Some 266 tickets were issued without noting what police vehicle was used, and 527 tickets did not bother identifying the speed gun used -- making it impossible to verify the ticket's legitimacy under state law.

The accounting firm Johnson Price Sprinkle (JPS) obtained an inventory of every laser and radar gun used by the department. The firm then checked the serial numbers against the various required certifications to note whether any of the devices were used to issue tickets when their calibrations were expired. JPS then double-checked department calibration records against the records of the certification lab.

JPS performed the same verification process to confirm whether police officers issuing speeding tickets had the necessary qualifications. JPS noted that this was difficult due to sloppy record keeping at the Asheville police department.

"Apparently, no database was being reliably maintained cataloging the inventory of active and retired speed measurement instruments, records of past and present certifications, or assignments of equipment to patrol vehicles, officers or units," the audit report explained. "An APD policy did exist stating that speed measurement instruments must be certified, but failed to provide guidance for compliance."

Various radar units were out of calibration for as little as a week to as long as three-and-a-half years. The city's LTI UltraLyte laser guns, for example, were out of certification between November 29, 2012 and December 11, 2012 then again from May 7, 2014 to October 10, 2014. Officials promised to clean up their act.

"The department's challenge and task now is to embrace the report recommendations that are being made and change the way the department's business has been done in the past," Chief Belcher concluded. "The department will revise policies as necessary, conduct department wide training related to the use of speed measuring instruments and implement a system of checks and balances... Traffic safety and police credibility are great concerns of all residents. It is the department's responsibility to deliver all services within acceptable standards."

Several hundred tickets were refunded late last year after the district attorney learned of the calibration lapses. A copy of the report is available in a 5.7mb file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Independent Accountants Report on Applying Agreed Upon Procedures (Asheville, North Carolina, 5/8/2015)



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