Fullerton officials ignore state law

December 16th, 2008, 3:03 pm · 9 Comments · posted by Steven Greenhut

Despite a judge’s clear ruling that the city of Fullerton’s red-light camera program is illegal, the city has no plans to change its contract with the camera company or refund its ill-gotten gains to ticketed motorists, according to a Register report. Hey, the city gets lots of money from these cameras, so who cares about following the law? Cities increasingly have become revenuers — they use the law to expand their budgets rather than to uphold justice and the rule of law. It’s long been known that the red-light camera frenzy is not about protecting motorists, given that studies show that the cameras often decrease safety rather than increase it. Typically, these cameras reduce side collisions, but increase rear-end collisions given that motorists come to quick and oftentimes unsafe stops to avoid getting one of these electronically created tickets. Some localities have been caught shortening yellow light times as a way to increase violations and thus increase revenue.

State law was changed to eliminate the practive whereby cities gain a portion of the revenue generated by the tickets. As the Register explained, “The law intends to make sure tha t camera companies have no financial incetive to ticket motorists unfairly.” But Sherman Ellison, an attorney who specializes in traffic cases, told the newspapers that the courts refuse to publish these cases because “it’s a huge cash cow in the system.”

Red-light cameras spotlight the worst form of privatization, as state power is married to the profit motive. Cities such as Fullerton should start following the law, but city officials, and police agencies in particular, believe they and their employees are above the law. It was a Register series last year that showed how government employees get special license plates, which often make them exempt from toll violations, parking tickets, traffic tickets and the like. This is where America is heading, a land where the ruled and the rulers live under a different set of rules.

The Fullerton council should insist that its cameras follow state law. What a novel concept!

Posted in: Civil Liberties