- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2001

In the summer of 1999, Metropolitan Police Chief Chuck Ramsey announced a new tool in traffic safety instrusive surveillance cameras. The cameras, the chief said, would curb red-light running and generate about $117 million. Now comes word, via The Washington Post and courtesy of the D.C. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), that some of the biggest scofflaws are D.C. government employees, including the chief's subordinates.

Between the summer of 1999, when the so-called photo-enforcement program began, through December 2000, the city mailed 182,463 red-light notices. Two-thirds of those lawbreakers paid their fines, allowing the citing to collect $9.1 million. As things now stand, if the city were to meet the chief's $117 million projections, officers would have to resort to quotas and harassment which shouldn't prove too difficult because their daily consorts are the kings and queens of parking ticket fixer-uppers.

It is practically impossible for the average, or private, motorist to have a red-light or speeding ticket scrapped because evidence includes a photo of your car speeding and/or running a red light and such incriminating accompaniments as license plate number, speed, date and time of day. The fines are steep: $75 to be paid within 15 days and two points. At least that is what the private motorist faces.

D.C. government employees caught breaking the law have found themselves beyond the long arm of the law or privileged characters, to hear the police explain it. "The difference between the private person responding in 15 days and a fleet agency is the size of the fleet," Assistant Police Chief Terrance Gainer explained to The Post.

Shame on the chief for chickening out. Actually, D.C. employees are expected to sign in and out when they use a fleet car or truck. Thus, identifying who is behind which government-owned wheels at any given time can be easily determined unless maintaining such records is mere busy work.

All told, 23 agencies received notice of the red-light infractions. D.C. officials should not brush these offenses aside. More importantly, officials certainly should not be tempted to commit the worst offense of all and allow the agencies to pay the tickets with taxpayer money.

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