Speed cameras in Montgomery County, Maryland have been ticketing motorists for quite some time now. Under their program, the tickets go to the owner of the vehicle instead of the driver. This is a common flaw in ticket camera systems across the country.
Local authorities have decided that it’s acceptable to do this to avoid the hassle of tracking down the actual violators.
The average motorist who receives a speed camera ticket can either fight it in court or send in a check. However, the amount of effort and time necessary to get a speed camera ticket dismissed is substantial. As a result, most drivers — even innocent ones — choose to just pay the ticket in order to avoid taking time off work to go to court.
Limited court costs are a key reason why ticket camera programs are so profitable for local governments.
According to the Washington Post, police in Montgomery County are bucking the trend and have decided to use their union resources to avoid paying camera tickets:
Among the thousands of drivers who have been issued $40 fines after being nabbed by Montgomery County‘s new speed cameras are scores of county police officers. The difference is, many of the officers are refusing to pay.
The officers are following the advice of their union, which says the citations are issued not to the driver but to the vehicle’s owner — in this case, the county.
So basically, they’ve decided to exploit the flaw in the system that they helped create. The article continues:
That view has rankled Police Chief J. Thomas Manger and County Council Member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), who chairs the Public Safety Committee.
“You can’t have one set of laws for police officers and another one for the rest of the world,” Andrews said.
Unfortunately, too often this appears to be the case, creating unnecessary tension between police officers and motorists:
In recent weeks, officers have twice been photographed speeding past a camera and extending a middle finger, an act that police supervisors interpreted as a gesture of defiance. “There is no excuse for that kind of behavior,” said Andrews, who was briefed on the incidents.
During the last eight months of 2007, the department’s cameras recorded 224 instances in which county police vehicles were nabbed traveling more than 10 mph over the speed limit, the department disclosed this week in response to an inquiry from The Washington Post.
Of those citations, 76 were dismissed after supervisors determined that officers were responding to calls or had other valid reasons to exceed the speed limit. Nearly two-thirds of the remaining 148 fines have not been paid, including an unspecified number that remain under investigation, said Lt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman. He said the number of citations issued to police employees this year is not yet available.
It will be interesting to see whether the officers will be held to same standard as normal citizens, who would most certainly face consequences if they refused to pay their tickets.
Image Credit: MikeSchinkel