The RCPD’s lack of desire for automated enforcement won out over city commissioner Wynn Butler’s convictions during the Law Board meeting Monday.
Automated enforcement refers to red light cameras and speed cameras that would automatically ticket those photographed running a red light or speeding above a pre-set limit.
Butler told fellow law board members he’s been pushing for automated enforcement because it reduces the number of new police officers, frees up current officers from traffic duty and enhances public safety. He said it’s not about producing revenue.
Butler said he’s looking to help RCPD, provided it wants the measures. “I don’t see this working unless RCPD takes ownership and buys into this,” he said. “If the police department doesn’t want to do this, then it’s not worth pursuing.”
RCPD assistant director John Doehling said the department’s hesitation flows from the public backlash that’s likely to arise from the issuance of automated tickets. He said police officers make a lot of stops that might not necessarily turn into a ticket.
“The number of tickets written are going to go up tremendously for an automated camera that has no discretion,” he said.
RCPD director Brad Schoen said speed and running red lights aren’t the leading causes of accidents. One of those leading causes is inattentive driving behaviors. “How can you automate somebody not paying attention when they’re driving down the road and end up rear-ending somebody?” Schoen asked.
Butler said his focus is on the feasibility of speed cameras, but the discussion started with the RCPD response to previous questions about red light cameras in Manhattan. From the beginning of 2012 through May 21, the department’s data on intersection-related accidents shows that running red lights accounted for 3.4 percent of accidents based on accident reports, and 6.4 percent based on accident citation data.
RCPD Captain Tim Hegarty said the three leading causes of accidents are following too closely, inattentive driving, and failing to follow stop and yield signs. Related to following too closely and inattentive driving, RCPD officials also presented studies that showed rear-end crashes increased significantly with red light cameras. That data included a 20 percent increase based on a 2011 New Jersey Department of Transportation study, a 39 percent increase based on a 2013 Institute of Transport Economics study, and a 8.5 percent increase based on a 2005 U.S. Federal Highway Administration study.
“From a policing standpoint, we don’t see the benefits resulting from the cost and public perspective that would result from this,” Hegarty said.
Butler agreed that the red light camera discussion should end. He advocated for speed cameras and signs about them at targeted areas throughout RCPD’s jurisdiction based on data.
“What studies have shown is when people know they’re being monitored, they change their behavior,” Butler said. “If you put it there, you’re probably not going to get many tickets, but the behavior is going to be changed, which is the real intent.”
Schoen said he isn’t sure whether the department can do a jurisdiction-wide approach. “For example, our authority to issue citations in the county doesn’t come from the city,” he said. “Likewise, our authority to issue citations in Ogden doesn’t come from (Manhattan) or the state. It comes from the city of Ogden.”
County commissioner Dave Lewis said he couldn’t see the need for adding speed cameras at this time based on other priorities.
Based on board consensus, the RCPD will start to gather information on potential costs of speed cameras, and board members would talk with their specific commissions more on the subject.
The board also heard from Riley County District Court Judge Meryl Wilson about the upcoming security planning at the district court, which is taking place following passage of a law that allows the concealed carry of weapons inside the buildings.
Schoen asked Wilson to the law board meeting because there will be budgetary impact on the police department should security measures be implemented.
Wilson said the number one priority is to develop a plan for one secured entrance, which is required in order for the courthouse to be exempted from the concealed carry law. “It’s going to be very difficult with that building we have because we do have five entrances,” he said.
The deadline for development of a plan is January. The measures don’t have to be in place by that time.
Wilson said the courthouse’s security has been an issue for a while. He said the court has more concerns with civil matters than criminal cases, when potential problems can be predicted.
Last year, Wilson said there were 134 protection from abuse cases and 113 stalking cases. “Those can be very emotional, and you never know beforehand how legit they are or if it’s something we need to be concerned about,” he said.
Beyond the definite needs of one secured entrance, Wilson said he would also like security cameras in the courthouse. He said there are five courtrooms, but typically only one security guard roams among them all.
County commissioner Robert Boyd suggested a working group to discuss the issue with both the district court and municipal court, which the city is also working to exempt from the law through the addition of security measures. Boyd and Butler will be a part of that as well as a representative from each court and RCPD.