Saturday, February 10, 2018 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews
Featured image: A screenshot of video footage posted to Facebook in 2008 of what the poster believes shows a Naperville driver receiving a $100 citation or a legal right turn.
A recent Chicago Tribune investigative analysis found that police officers in area suburbs often “race through” the review process that they’re required by law to conduct whenever a red light camera results in a citation.
Comparing the review process to “an assembly line,” Tribune reporters found “one suburban officer who reviewed and approved 41 tickets in 59 seconds. His boss, the chief, had more than 400 instances where he assessed and approved a citation in 2 seconds or less.”
The Tribune also discovered “wide disparities from suburb to suburb in how often towns approve violations flagged by vendors.”
Motorists who are ticketed have the option to appeal, but “the suburbs largely control the process and tickets are rarely tossed out,” according to Tribune reporters, who added that motorists “can then take their case to traditional courts, but it’s costly and odds of victory are long.”
The Tribune looked at “the most recent 12 months of available records from 85 suburbs it identified as having cameras, then created or obtained dozens of data sets to document a process that begins with a simple triggering of roadway sensors.”
Once the sensors are triggered, the cameras start collecting footage, which is then sent to a private firm for screening.
“Those firms describe a rigorous process of reviewing the videos before sending the ones deemed worthy of violations to Police Departments for a final check,” Tribune reporters noted. “Some firms say they winnow the list of potential violations further, working with client suburbs in advance to identify the kinds of violations each town is likely to approve.”
But the Tribune’s analysis found the review process wanting in some areas, particularly during the police review.
As a rule of thumb, many departments told the Tribune, police officers decide whether or not to overturn a citation by asking themselves if they would have issued a ticket for the actions shown in the video footage if they had seen the alleged infraction with their own eyes.
But some officers seemingly violated this rule of thumb during the review process. The Tribune mentioned one Riverdale cop who in a span of three months “approved 754 violations in just 2 seconds each.”
The hasty review process and the sheer volume of fines associated with the citations puts the already controversial red light cameras — one of which former Bellwood Comptroller Roy McCampbell once likened to a casino — under even more scrutiny.
McCampbell was sentenced in 2016 to two years of probation and ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution for stealing from the village. The disgraced official “played a key role in convincing the state legislature to authorize red light cameras.”
The Tribune report also lends weight to the many drivers who have complain about tickets they don’t believe were justified.
In return, Redspeed, the camera firm that Bellwood contracts with, gave $5,230 in donations to the Bellwood First Party, which McCampbell backed.
According to the Tribune, just five five vendors provide the red light camera programs that are operated in the 85 suburbs they examined. Those include ATS, Redflex, Gatso, Safespeed and Redspeed.
But there are wide disparities in the percentage of tickets that are approved between suburbs that contract with the same companies, the Tribune analysis shows. In Melrose Park, which contracts with Redspeed and Safespeed, the two biggest vendors, police officers approved tickets roughly 97 percent of the time.
But in Bensenville, which also contracts with Redspeed, tickets are approved only 45 percent of the time.
A Fox Lake police chief told Tribune reporters that one vendor, Redflex — which Bellwood contracts with (along with Redspeed) — often recommends for citations traffic maneuvers that aren’t illegal.
“[T]wo videos showed drivers who stopped beyond the white stop line before turning right on red,” Tribune reporters wrote. “Lee said the law doesn’t allow camera tickets to be issued if drivers stop before turning, even if they’re past the line. Redflex routinely includes videos of those maneuvers as suggested violations, he said, even though it shouldn’t.”
Read the full Tribune investigation here. VFP
For more local news, ‘Like’ our Facebook page