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DC Cops Pad Salary With Photo Radar Cash
Whistleblower lawsuit reveals hundreds of cops being paid up to an additional $80,000 a year in overtime cash from speed camera program.

Mark Robinson
Police officers in the nation's capital have been adding as much as $80,000 to their annual salaries with money generated from photo radar. The extra cash helps build good will among the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) members who are paid out of the $100 million in tickets that Washington, DC's cameras issued last year.

The full extent of the monetary incentive was in the spotlight last week as a police sergeant received the green light from a federal judge to pursue his racial discrimination lawsuit against the city. Sergeant Mark E. Robinson claims that even though 213 officers were allowed to pad their salaries by tens of thousands of dollars, he was cut out of the largess in December 2011. Sergeant Robinson poured fuel on the fire in 2013 when he came forward to blow the whistle on the Third Street Tunnel speed camera that racked up over $1.8 million in tickets using an improperly posted speed limit.

In 2008, Sergeant Robinson was the full-time supervisor on photo radar detail. Other officers were only allowed to take photo radar overtime by participating in a lottery system. Those winning a coveted slot in the program earned an average of 468 hours of overtime, paid at the time-and-a-half rate. Before he began raising issues about the way the program was being run, Sergeant Robinson clocked anywhere from 1500 to 2000 hours of photo radar overtime a year -- worth $80,000 annually. That all stopped in 2011, and Sergeant Robinson pointed out that "less qualified" white officers were being given photo radar overtime from 2014 to 2015, while he was denied the same opportunity.

The city argued that the speed camera unit was "civilianized" in 2011, and no full-time employees were dedicated to automated ticketing. The camera program is fully owned and operated by American Traffic Solutions (ATS), which took over from Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) in 2006. ACS created the system in which the private company paid the overtime salaries of officers who drove the fully automated mobile speed camera cars to the ticketing location. As reported in a Weekly Standard series, the duty is highly coveted because, "You come in, set it up, sit back, read a magazine."

"By 2014, MPD was utilizing some civilian technicians to deploy automated traffic devices under the supervision of sworn members," Sergeant Robinson testified in a deposition. "This was consistent with General Order OPS 303.10 which required a 'member' to issue a notice of infraction for a traffic violation in the District of Columbia. A 'member' is defined to include only a sworn officer."

The new system still required officers to click a button to "approve" the violations submitted by ATS so that the Arizona-based company could drop them in the mail. Instead of participating in this, Sergeant Robinson was transferred away to the department's "special events" branch despite his qualifications to continue working on the camera program as his fellow officers were doing.

"Mr. Robinson's supervisors knew that he wanted to work overtime but did not allow him to do so," US District Judge Rudolph Contreras wrote in last week's ruling. "A jury could reasonably find that MPD's decision significantly changed the nature of Mr. Robinson's employment, because he lost the benefits -- financial, professional, and otherwise -- that come along with working in the Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit overtime program."

Judge Contreras has scheduled a status hearing on the case for August 15. In 2008, a former DC police officer admitted she pocketed $178,611 in photo radar cash without working overtime.

A copy of the new decision is available in a 150k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Robinson v. DC (US District Court, District of Columbia, 8/1/2017)

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