5/9/2017Texas Cops Get Overtime For Supporting Red Light Cameras
Texas cops spend 7 minutes lobbying for red light cameras while billing taxpayers for a full day of work.
Speaking publicly in favor of red light cameras is earning favors for Texas police officers. Garland Police Lieutenant Pedro J. Barineau appeared in a political advertisement generated on behalf of the red light camera industry in full uniform.
"Any legislation that would outlaw the use of automated red light enforcement sends a dangerous message," the officer intones. "Let's not send that message, keep red light cameras in Texas."
As Texas is one of the four most lucrative markets for automated ticketing, Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) have poured a great deal of cash into lobbying in Austin. In some cases, however, taxpayers are the ones footing the bill for the lobbying.
On March 8, Lieutenant Barineau appeared at a Texas Senate Transportation Committee hearing, which met for a little under 90 minutes to hear testimony on a pair of red light camera bills. Cities with photo ticketing programs -- Austin, El Paso, Frisco, Fort Worth, Garland, Plano and Sugar Land -- sent teams of uniformed police officers to lobby for the cameras. Having so many police show up meant several members of the public, all of whom opposed cameras, had to wait until the tail end of the proceedings to have their voice heard.
Although he only spoke and took questions for 7 minutes, Lieutenant Barineau billed taxpayers for eight full hours of work. Garland Deputy Marshal J.D. Bettes even claimed overtime, a total of two 9 hour days listed as "special assignment-legislative committee" at a cost to taxpayers of $447, even though he did not testify.
Taxpayers gave Frisco Police Chief John Bruce and his deputy, David Shilson, each their own luxury suites at the Embassy Suites hotel in Austin for $364. The Frisco officers each enjoyed a smoked sirloin steak and salad at the Texas Land and Cattle restaurant the night before their testimony. While driving back to Frisco, the officers stopped off in Waco for chocolate shakes and tator tots, all expensed to the city, along with $34.20 in gas. The Texas Campaign For Liberty, which is fighting to ban red light cameras, was outraged at the expenses.
"In the end the taxpayers are paying thousands of dollars in salaries, wages and reimbursements to police officers and city officials to lobby Austin against their interests," Byron Schirmbeck, the group's state coordinator, told TheNewspaper. "We've reached a new low when some police officers will sell their credibility and influence for the profits of corrupt camera corporations."