Maryland police agencies hold private speed-camera meeting

By: [replacer_a]
Examiner Staff Writer
06/24/09 10:05 PM EDT

Montgomery County police officials met in private with law enforcement agencies from around the state Wednesday to offer tips on how to implement speed camera programs.
Starting Oct. 1, law enforcement agencies statewide will be able to start putting speed cameras in work and school zones. Currently, only Montgomery County has been allowed to operate the cameras.
Since starting the program two years ago, Montgomery County police said there’s been a drop in speeding around the cameras, and the county’s roads have been made safer. But critics have disputed the cameras’ effectiveness and said the county is using the cameras as a “cash cow.”
Capt. John Damskey said the point of the one-day speed camera symposium, which was held at the Universities at Shady Grove, was to share “best practices” lessons with officials from other counties who are considering using speed cameras.
The Maryland Municipal League billed the event as an opportunity for law enforcement and government officials to receive a free “overview of effective use of the technology as a law enforcement ‘force multiplier.’ ”
About 125 law enforcement officials from around the state, as well as from the Maryland State Highway Administration, attended the event, according to police.
Damskey said the symposium was closed to the public to encourage the free flow of ideas from the event’s participants — without fear of self-censorship because those ideas would be made public.
“I don’t want anybody holding back an idea that has a lot of merits that could improve everybody’s program,” Damskey said, after barring a reporter from entering the symposium.
Speed cameras have plenty of critics in Maryland who have said that the cameras are symbols of a Big Brother-type government that denies drivers their rights to due process. A petition effort to have a referendum on the use of speed cameras statewide started after the General Assembly passed the legislation earlier this year, but failed after not getting enough signatures to meet a deadline.
Damskey said the symposium was also closed to vendors and consultants. Montgomery County pays a private contractor $16.25 out of $40 from each ticket from a speed camera.
The county recently doubled the number of fixed cameras it has in place from 30 to 60, and expects to bring in about $29 million from the cameras during the next fiscal year, a portion of which will be used to fund police anti-gang programs and other activities.