Board nixes study of traffic cameras

By Bethany Knipp

The law board on Monday voted not to study the use of cameras for traffic enforcement in Riley County.

The motion to dismiss the study passed 5 - 1, with Commissioner Wynn Butler opposed.

Butler was the main proponent of the study because he wanted to know if additional traffic cameras would save money for the department by using police officers for more important tasks than writing speeding tickets.

Butler said the intent is to save money for the Riley County Police Department in the long run, not to make money.

“The idea of using electronic enforcement is not to create speed traps and generate money for the city or the county,” he said. Butler said the police department would agree with that because the department doesn’t get proceeds from speeding tickets anyway.

Chairman John Matta said he didn’t support the idea of electronic cameras, so he didn’t want the police department to spend time on it. He also said the city or county would have to decide the issue and create an ordinance allowing the cameras before the law board would be able to have the police department study their use.

Butler disagreed. “If we were going to do this, it should not be a city or county initiative because we created a consolidated police department,” he said.

Butler said he wanted to study whether the use of speed cameras would save money because the police department has an expanding yearly budget and has to hire more officers as the population grows.

Butler said he wanted to install a camera and gather data for six months.

“It’s the only thing I can think of that might have some possibility of reducing the cost of additional officers each year,” he said. “Without studying it, I don’t think we can arbitrarily say no.”

Butler also wanted to look into putting speed cameras on school buses to help enforce traffic when buses are loading and unloading school children. Butler said that wouldn’t be a city or county issue either; rather, the cameras would belong to the unified school district.

Commissioner Barry Wilkerson was opposed to implementing a study.

“One of the problems with cameras is, you’ve got to identify the operator under Kansas law and the camera is not going to be able to do that,” he said.

Wilkerson said that tickets would be written to the vehicle.

“We can’t do that,” he said. “Until the state statute is written, I’m not in favor of something we can’t use out on highways,” he said.

Commissioner Ron Wells also opposed the study and moved to dismiss the item for the time being. He said that another issue is when officers are enforcing traffic, they don’t just write speeding tickets.

“The officer has the discretion to write the ticket, to write a warning or find out what the problem was or other infractions involved,” he said. 

Also during the law board meeting, RCPD Director Brad Schoen gave awards to officers involved in an April 7 shooting at Garden Way Apartments in which one man died and two others were injured from gunshot wounds.

Officer Joseph Erlich was given a distinguished service award for his involvement in the incident.

Officers Michael Wagenblast, Carl Stevens, Matthew Pfrang and Ryan Doehling were given commendation award.

Officers Wade Cherms, Christopher Combs, Calvin Sanders, Mark Cusimano, Samuel Shubert, Amy Wilburn and Daryl Ascher were given meritorious service awards.

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