Legal Reference

Police officers rarely held accountable for photo radar tickets

Do as we say, not as we do! Cops never write cops tickets! But photo radar cameras do.


Photo-enforcement cameras nab county staff speeding on the job

by Yvonne Wingett and JJ Hensley - Feb. 12, 2010 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

Photo-enforcement cameras have snapped employees driving Maricopa County vehicles more than 1,500 times over the last two years as they exceeded speed limits and run red lights.

A Republic review of thousands of documents obtained through a public-records request found that sheriff's deputies overwhelmingly received most of the tickets, usually when responding to emergencies. Those tickets are routinely waived because deputies are first-responders.

Workers from the Maricopa County Department of Transportation, Adult Probation, Environmental Services and other departments also racked up dozens of tickets since 2008.

John Cantu, director of Equipment Services, tracks the tickets: "It has been a problem," he said. "As county employees, we need to set the example."

The county's risk manager said speeding tickets alone do not expose the county to liability because individual workers are usually responsible for paying the fines, which cost about $200 for each state citation. But if the employees have accidents in county vehicles while on county business, it can open up the county to liability and lead to expenses for car repairs and legal settlements, which taxpayers end up paying.

County workers were held responsible for about 10 percent of tickets received from 2008 to early this year. [So 90 percent of the time it is OK for county employees to speed and run red lights]

The Arizona Department of Public Safety issued most of the citations from its web of photo-enforcement boxes posted along Valley freeways. Speed-enforcement and red-light cameras from Scottsdale, El Mirage and other cities also caught county employees breaking traffic laws. [Wonder how come cops never receive tickets from other cops? Oh! So cops don't write each other tickets - and it is impossible to program the photo radar bandits so they don't write tickets to cops]

"If you are simply conducting county business and not on an emergency run, like a sheriff's deputy, and you have a citation … it's not something we're going to be at all tolerant of," County Manager David Smith said.

County departments handle tickets differently. Some employees, for example, must appear before safety committees to explain why they received tickets. Tickets also can be added to personnel files. [But they don't treat them like they treat civilians who get tickets]

Routine speeding can lead to disciplinary actions, such as suspension or termination if the position requires a driver's license. [Yea sure! I wonder how many county employees have been punished for this]

A spokesman for the Sheriff's Office said the agency wasn't concerned with the number of deputies caught speeding. [Yea sure!]

"If you're justified in what you're doing, you don't have to worry about exceeding the speed and getting a photo-radar ticket," Lt. Brian Lee said. [Cops always think they are justified in breaking the law. Cops are above the law.]

Tickets spike

Maricopa County has a fleet of about 1,900 cars, trucks, vans and SUVs, and 650 pieces of off-road equipment such as ATVs and bulldozers.

About 10,216 county employees, sheriff's posse members and park hosts are permitted to either drive those county vehicles or drive their own vehicles while doing county work. The Republic only reviewed tickets received by employees driving county vehicles.

Workers drive millions of miles a year and crisscross the county to respond to 911 calls, inspect restaurants and repair roads.

Employees must have a safe driving record and some must take safe-driving courses before they are permitted to drive, said Peter Crowley, the county's risk manager.

When workers are popped by the cameras, the citations arrive in the mailbox of the county's Equipment Services, a maintenance and repair shop based in south Phoenix.

The state started to roll out its photo-enforcement system in September 2008 and had 78 fixed and mobile cameras on Arizona highways by the time expansion halted in January 2009.

Tickets to county employees spiked after the cameras went up, Cantu said. The three equipment-services employees who handle the tickets noticed the uptick.

Employees occasionally got speeding tickets before photo enforcement, Cantu said, but never the number they now see. [Before photo radar cameras cops never wrote cops tickets. Cops still don't write cops tickets, but photo radar bandits do write cops tickets]

The tickets are forwarded to the responsible department, employees are identified and told to take care of the ticket. They can either pay the fine or challenge it.

In the past two years, county workers received 1,525 citations. Of those, 146 either paid the fine or challenged the citations. [So 90 percent of the tickets county employees receive are dropped. I wonder how that compares with civilians]

In some cases, Cantu said that the identity of drivers could not be determined because multiple employees drove the same vehicle and the photo was unclear. The county has not paid for any tickets, Cantu said.

The Sheriff's Office received 1,317, the most of any agency, but 91 percent of those were dismissed.

First responders

State law exempts "first responders" and virtually guarantees law-enforcement won't pay photo-enforcement tickets. [So the law is rigged so cops don't have to obey it!]

When the tickets arrive at the Sheriff's Office, a division commander identifies the driver. If the commander can correlate the time of infraction with an emergency call, the citation is dismissed.

On 68 separate occasions last year, deputies were clocked driving 100 mph or more on their way to emergencies, one was driving 130 mph – the highest speed cameras will register. [Cops don't just speed, they speed at extremely dangerous speeds - There is a version of this law called felony speeding, but obviously it's not enforced against cops]

A sheriff's spokesman said deputies driving 130 mph or faster wouldn't necessarily violate policy. [But if a civilian drives at 130 miles an hour he is charged with felony speeding and punished harshly]

"The policy for pursuit driving is really based on the nature of the emergency they're responding to and the impact their speeds have on the general public and community," Lee said. "Obviously there's some discretion there." [Damn right there is discretion there - cops never are held accountable for the photo radar tickets they receive]

But about half of the excessive tickets were generated through undercover vehicles, according to the Republic's review.

In 2009, undercover and/or unmarked sheriff's cars were caught driving at excessive speeds on 117 different occasions that were pending as of early January, when the Republic reviewed records.

Because those tickets are still pending, the Sheriff's Office hasn't determined if the deputy involved will have to pay. [Why does it only take a few nanoseconds to determine that a civilian is responsible for their ticket, but it takes months to determine if a cop is responsible for their ticket - sounds like a double standard where cops are never held accountable for their actions]

Lee said the undercover workers were still justified in their speeds unless a commander found otherwise. "They're still a law-enforcement officer, number one, and their concern is public safety," he said. [Why are narcs allow to speed on their way to buy a dime bag of dope but civilians are not? I give up some questions should never be asked]

County response

Officials from several departments told the Republic they did not know their workers had received tickets, and some said they would meet with staff to address speeding. [I know nothing about those tickets. If they know nothing the workers are probably not being held responsible for the tickets]

Kenny Harris, director of facilities management said, "We are maintaining roads, we are out in the right of way repairing roads, putting cones down, striping roads. And that should also include paying attention to the roadside cameras."

Others gave explanations of why their employees may have been pushing speed limits.

R.J. Cardin, director of parks and recreation said workers are stretched thin with years of budget cuts and are "in a hurry to get where they need to be." [When a civilian used the lame excuse that he or she was in a hurry for some work related reason will a judge rule that is an excuse to get out of the photo radar ticket? Certainly not for civilians, but county employees use it to get out of tickets]

Several department officials, including those from adult probation and environmental services, said they would watch tickets closely and tighten policies if needed. [They got caught on camera and now the lie and say it will never happen again - Yea sure!]

Rodrigo Silva, head of animal care and control, said employees "shouldn't be speeding at all. We're not law enforcement. … I take it as an opportunity to improve our training so we avoid getting any more tickets."

John Hauskins is the director of transportation. Lead-foot employees have been a problem, he said, and officials are meeting to figure out how to get workers to slow down. Hauskins said the department is installing GPS tracking devices on select department vehicles to track speed, among other things, as a preventative measure. [Again they got caught on camera and now the lie and say it will never happen again - Yea sure!]

"We have had a little rash of these things. We've advised people, you've got to pay attention, you've got to be legally driving," Hauskins said. "We're going to be reinforcing speeding in our meetings." [But don't count on county employees being held responsible for tickets written by the photo radar bandits]

Reach the reporter at or 602-444-4712.

More on this topic

By the numbers

A Republic review of thousands of documents found Maricopa County employees were captured by cameras more than 1,500 times over two years as they drove over the speed limit and ran red lights.

A breakdown of those tickets:

Total citations received by county workers:

• 2008: 352

• 2009: 1,062

• 2010: 111

Of those, the number of employees held responsible:

• 2008: 55

• 2009: 91

• 2010:N/A

Of the above . . .

Citations received by Sheriff's Office

• 2008: 275

• 2009: 935

• 2010: 107

Employees held responsible

• 2008: 7

• 2009: 11

• 2010: N/A

Source: Records obtained through Maricopa County Equipment Services.


Thomas spokesman nabbed for speeding

Barnett Lotstein, a spokesman for Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, was popped twice by photo-enforcement cameras for speeding on the I-51. Lotstein was driving county vehicles when he was ticketed. County officials in the past have said that Lotstein, a special assistant county attorney, drives a take-home car provided by the county.

He was cited on Dec. 22, 2009 and Jan. 3, 2009, said Cari Gerchick, a county spokeswoman. She could not provide any other details on the tickets.

Lotstein could. He paid one ticket, and is considering fighting the second. “One time, I was in a county car doing county business, and I was on the I-51, and was cited for going one mile over the limit,” he told the Insider. “I believe I was going 66, and I got a ticket. I don’t make it a practice to speed.” [When cops commit perjury in court its called testilying - when the lie to reporters it doesn't have a name other then lying]

The county’s general litigation services department has been working to determine information was subject to a public-records request following a December inquiry by the Republic. Attorneys decided Thursday that the details could be released because Lotstein is in an administrative position and is not a law enforcement officer. [So they will refuse to give us information on cops who commit crimes]