Bus Drivers and Cops in the Red-Light District


Red-light cameras seemed like a great idea to Albuquerque city officials–until they started catching colleagues on camera. At least a dozen city cops and bus drivers have filed a lawsuit, after discovering that it doesn't seem very fair to get a ticket from a machine in the mail, with almost no recourse to challenge it. Cops on call are exempted, of course, but speeding bus drivers and police cruisers are used to being above the law, and the tickets came as a nasty shock. The central complaint: "The ordinance violates common law because it 'irrationally' declares city vehicles public nuisances."

More on red-light cameras here, here, and here.

NEXT: Coup de Text

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  1. See, they have it all wrong. The’re not being given a ticket for breaking the law. They’re being charged a fee for the service of being able to continue through red lights.

  2. Somehow, the experience of looking in my rear-view mirror and seeing only the grill of the transit bus three feet behind my bumper at 90 kph (55 mph for Americans) has left me with little sympathy for bus drivers…

  3. The cause of action is patently absurd. If police officers used their government-issued handguns to commit crimes while off-duty, then those guns would certainly constitute a nuisance a nuisance outside the scope of their authorised use. Automobile use is responsible for the deaths of thousands in the U.S. every month, meaning that municipalities certainly do have an interest in imposing penalties against those who misuse their potentially dangerous property.

  4. A policeman who was clocked travelling at 159mph has been found guilty of dangerous driving but has escaped punishment. [LINK]

    I remember the old days when a cop would flash his badge and get out of a DUI arrest. The other officer would just give him a ride home.

  5. A friend of mine was a cop in the 80’s. He recalled more than one time where he was told to leave a scene because he refused to help destroy the evidence that a drunk cop had created while behind the wheel.

  6. While there are issues that can be brought up around red-light cameras, that they apply at least blind justice is a positive feature. The fact is that for many traffic violations, whether you get a ticket or not and what for depend on whether the cop takes a liking or disliking to you.

    At least the red-light camera doesn’t let off the pretty girls and the off-duty cops, and doesn’t go out of its way to bust poor Mexicans driving beat-up cars. Or whatever the local cop favorite is around where you live.

  7. Damn, life sucks when you’re held to the same standard as the public.

  8. The only reason we have traffic signals is because bureaucrats are copping the Chevy Chase attitude: I’m a bureaucrat, and you’re not. Therefore you vill shtop at mein traffic signal.
    Traffic signals are a horrible idea. Every last one should be melted down for the value of the metal.
    That being the case, what is Phase II for a horrible idea? Cameras. Why? Some of you ver not following mein orders to zee letter, dummkopfs!

  9. Strange take on a strange story. Actually, the Albuquerque City officials still like their red-light cameras; they make lots of money and they don’t have to provide any due process. Its the bus drivers who have their pay docked without a hearing who are so disturbed. So tell me again how it’s just like an off-duty cop’s misuse of a handgun or going 159 mph when a bus driver has his city bus deemed a “public nuisance” because a city red-light camera caught him going through an intersection after a yellow turn arrow turned to red.

    Does anyone think that bus drivers want to run red lights? or is it more likely they have tight schedules and the buses are too big to stop quickly and our government enforcement is what’s out of control. And how about those studies that show that the best way to reduce intersection accidents is to increase the length of the yellow light? One second more equates to a forty percent drop in accidents, according to a Texas study.

  10. In Minnesota the red-light-camera system has been suspended by an ACLU lawsuit. It seems that problem is that, in Minnesota, traffic violations are petty misdemeanors, a criminal offense. Since there is no evidence that you, personally, were behind the wheel of your car, you’re being charged with a criminal offense and put in the position of having to prove your innocence by turning in the real culprit.

    This crosses a line, obviously, but can easily be remedied by changing the state law to create a new class of vehicular offenses related to red lights. After all, they can ticket your car for being illegally parked, so presumably they can ticket your car for being in the intersection during a red light.

    I’m comfortable with that, despite my contempt for wide surveillance. An offense against the vehicle won’t affect insurance rates nor can it be used as a prior conviction in a revocation hearing (Minnesota has a “points” system for license revocation).

  11. Stop-on-Red:

    I’d like a link to that study, if available.


  12. Here’s the link you requested:

    See especially page 6-2. The study cites the benefits of engineering over enforcement and concludes that intersection crashes are best reduced by a lowering of the speed limit going into the intersection and an increase in the yellow light time. That makes sense and saves lives and property damage, but it doesn’t produce the revenue that red-light cameras do.

    Of course, there are many studies and some show that red-light cameras reduce accidents, others show they increase them, particularly rear-end crashes.

  13. I think I’ve detected a pattern. I’m a bartender, and I know that people in the service industry are inclined to “hook up” their fellow service industry workers. A free beer here, a fat shot there, and it’s pretty ubiquitous. Clearly, police officers expect to get the “hook up” as well. Everybody helps their own.

  14. The glaring mistake in red light camera justifications is the idea that traffic lights are safety devices.

    They’re not. If anything, they reduce safety.

    Traffic lights are traffic efficiency devices. If you have a green, you don’t have to slow and prepare to avoid the cross traffic. You _assume_ he has a red and will stop. No negotiation is attempted.

    So traffic moves faster, by being given an assumption to work with.

    This assumption is not compromised at all if you have a red and see that the intersection is clear, and simply drive through. This happens all the time at intersections without traffic lights and nobody thinks twice about it. If you don’t have the right of way, but nobody is coming, then go. It works.

    So there are two classes of red light offenders, and no effort is made to distinguish them – the blow-right-through people, who are a menace, and the look-and-proceed people, who are fine.

    You can get money by fining them all, is what’s happening.

    Incidentally, stop signs are similarly efficiency devices and not safety devices, and also reduce safety. If you’re coming up on an intersection and there’s no stop sign, you _assume_ that the other guy has a stop sign. But that may not be true – it may have fallen down or never have been put up. So you have a collision as a result of the stop sign convention.

    If there never were stop signs, every intersection would be a 4-way stop automatically, and traffic would be slower, but not making assumptions either. The stop sign makes it more dangerous but faster, just like the traffic light.

    They’re efficiency devices, not safety devices.

    Put that in the self-righteous rhetoric somewhere, about people who look before proceeding.

  15. Everywhere I’ve ever lived the cops just turn their overhead lights on to run the red light and then turn them off when they’re through. They’re not actually “on a call”, they’re just misusing their cruiser to avoid waiting like the rest of us chumps.

    That’s probably why the police generated such a small number of violations in Albuquerque.

  16. In my two months in India, I observed a nation with a huge amount of traffic; occasional traffic police in urban roundabouts, and otherwise (and outside of Bangalore), rarely signals at all. The bulk of this assertion is true:

    “If there never were stop signs, every intersection would be a 4-way stop automatically, and traffic would be slower, but not making assumptions either. The stop sign makes it more dangerous but faster, just like the traffic light.”

    I’d say all traffic everywhere, both animal-driven, auto-rickshaw, diesel lorry or the rare private car essentially proceeds at 10-15 miles per hour, all the time, right through intersections. My point is intersections would NOT be 4-way stops, they’re a delicate interleaving of flows, negotiated with eye contact, body language, and a use of horns that is much more polite and go-along-get-along than the use of horns in western traffic. It’s a fascinating dance, and a situation wherein someone accustomed to driving in the West would get eaten alive.

    All that said, I agree that the absence of lights and control devices reduces accidents. In my two months in India, I only saw one traffic accident, a crumpled auto-rickshaw that appeared to have been t-boned while crossing a National Road (not quite an expressway, but at least 4 lanes with a centerline jersey barrier).

  17. best way to reduce intersection accidents is to increase the length of the yellow light

    And in fact it has been noted in several red-light camera cases that companies who sell and install these subtly (or openly) encourage the shortening of yellow light times to boost revenue. These intersections then often show an increase in rear-enders.

    Near where I live, one heavily populated and traffic-clogged county is replacing 9 of its busy intersections with roundabouts over the next few years, citing studies that show improvements in flow and safety.

  18. I remember the old days when a cop would flash his badge and get out of a DUI arrest. The other officer would just give him a ride home.
    Comment by: Twba at August 28, 2006 05:28 PM

    Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) are held to a higher standard.


    Police Defend Actions Taken In Officer’s Traffic Stop
    Officer Is Suspended For Two Days

    DES MOINES, Iowa — Police spokesmen from two departments are defending a traffic stop last fall involving a Des Moines police officer.

    KCCI received an anonymous letter in the mail Thursday from someone who provided detailed information about a months-old West Des Moines police traffic stop of an off-duty Des Moines officer.

    Now, both departments confirm the stop happened, and they defend how they handled it.

    The stop happened shortly after midnight on Sept. 22 on the freeway in West Des Moines.

    A West Des Moines officer clocked a car at 99 mph in a 55 mph zone. The officer pulled over the car and learned it was an unmarked Des Moines police car. Police said Des Moines police narcotics Officer Stewart Drake was driving.

    “He could smell some alcohol and he had bloodshot eyes,” said West Des Moines police spokesman Lt. Mike Ficcola.

    West Des Moines police called in the Des Moines Police Department’s supervisor on duty, who came to the scene and picked up the Des Moines officer.

    “Apparently, he had an attitude with the officer, so he thought instead of writing him a ticket and going through that, that it would be better served to call Des Moines and have Des Moines deal with him internally,” Ficcola said.

    “The watch commander on duty came out to that location and had a conversation with the West Des Moines officer, and subsequently ended up taking that officer home,” said Des Moines police spokesman Sgt. Todd Dykstra.

    The West Des Moines officer did not test Drake for alcohol or ticket him.

    “Traffic stops, arrests, for the most part, is officer discretion,” Ficcola said.

    “The officer was not on duty, he was speeding excessively and he was driving a city vehicle. As a result, those actions are inappropriate and the administration took the actions they felt was appropriate for the situation,” Dykstra said.

    Des Moines Police Chief Bill McCarthy suspended Drake for two days and stripped him of his city-owned take-home car.

    “The officer has served his two-day suspension, and the take-home vehicle has been taken away from him, so he no longer has a city vehicle to drive, and in our minds he served his punishment,” Dykstra said.

    Ficcola said that Drake apologized to West Des Moines Police Chief Jack O’Donnell and to the two West Des Moines officers involved in the traffic stop.

    West Des Moines’ police spokesman said his chief did not launch an internal review because the department gives its officers discretion in handling traffic stops.

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