Police Reform Should Never Include Automated Ticket Enforcement

By Shelia Dunn, NMA Communications Director

Protestors are calling for police reform around the country. Some even ask for a way to defund the police. Many cities and some states have already started the conversation. Congress already debates various police reform bills, and even President Trump signed an Executive Order this week on police reform.

But police reform cannot include automated ticket enforcement or ATE. The most times anyone ever encounters the police is during a traffic stop. Handing out automatic tickets would alleviate some of those concerns but brings up so many more.

The issuing of automated traffic tickets violates the constitutional rights of the accused facing their accuser (a camera is not a person and cannot be an accuser). A red-light or speed camera (or any other automated-type ticket) also presumes guilt from the outset. This problem is exacerbated even more if automated tickets are thrown into a civil court, where rights are subdued substantially.

Several editorials this week called for police reform and also the use of ATE. Even Jalopnik, a supposedly pro-car/pro-motorists, had its say in The Case for Ending all Traffic Stops. Most of the opinion is well said until we come to the end:We can develop systems we already have in place for making sure cars are registered and inspected, even speed cameras for watching roads.” Almost a throwaway line like it doesn’t really matter.

But ATE tickets do matter especially in a state like California where a red-light camera ticket is nearly $500, and the state judiciary would love to push these kinds of tickets to civil court. 

Vice.com ran a similar article except making a case for speed cameras in its subtitle: “The law invented the concept of officer discretion so white drivers could get fewer speeding tickets. If we want to have fair and equitable policing, we’ll have to get over our hatred for speed cameras.”

A commentary in the Bangor Daily News had a different take—let police dashcams issue tickets instead, so there is no police interaction with drivers. This kind of automation does not have bias but can undoubtedly put drivers into a black hole of debt.

Big money is to be made with ATE Tickets. Cities even balance their budgets on the backs of motorists. Some call it a “policing for profit” scheme, others “taxation by citation.” Here are some recent examples:

Some media outlets are still fighting against cams:  the Newtown Falls, Ohio daily newspaper recently praised the city on dropping a speed camera idea. In Alabama, Alexander City and Lake Martin’s The Outlook posted an editorial called Cameras on Every Corner a Slippery Slope. My favorite line in this piece, “But when it comes to increased surveillance and the privacy of law-abiding citizens, we are standing on a slope covered in Crisco.”

If we allow ATE to become the default for everyone, there is no way anyone will likely be allowed to even challenge one of these tickets. Challenging a ticket may soon become even more difficult, especially in light of a recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling, which eliminated the need for police to prove LASER gun accuracy. In a 6 to 1 decision, the court declared that if a machine claims a motorist was speeding, then he or she must have been speeding. Guilty, no matter what!

Here are five other stories of the past several weeks that might be of interest:

NMA Resources to fight against Ticket Cams and other Street and In-Car Surveillance

NMA Issue Pages:

Check out the NMA Facebook Page called the Ticket Cam Alert USA.

We are currently building a closed Facebook Group called the Ticket Cam Alert USA Discussion Group for local and state activists to have a space to discuss best practices and ask questions.

Also, here are some NMA blog posts that might be of interest!

If you would like to keep track of the many issues currently involved in automated ticket cameras and street surveillance, take a daily peek at the NMA’s Driving News Feed or subscribe to Driving News Daily, a five times per week email.

If you would like to support the work of the National Motorists Association, please join today.

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Leave a Comment

2 Responses to “Police Reform Should Never Include Automated Ticket Enforcement”

  1. Mikhael says:

    You’re missing the broader point, that ATE will do nothing to solve problems with police. You will still have police out enforcing criminal traffic laws and civil traffic laws where ATE is not present. Police will still have just as much authority to use minor violations as an excuse to pull someone over.

    • The NMA’s Ticket Cam Alert Blog is biweekly and focuses directly on everything automated traffic enforcement. The broader police reform was actually not talked about in the post. The NMA absolutely wants that when discussing police reform, ATE is not a part of the solutions anywhere.

      Thank you for your comments!