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  1. #1
    Yoda of Radar
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    Jun 2005

    Default Charges won't halt photo radar - CAN

    Charges won't halt photo radar
    Coun. Nickel says case about police policies, not merits of the technology
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    Paul Marck, The Edmonton Journal
    Published: Sunday, February 19, 2006

    EDMONTON -- Charges linked to an Edmonton police photo radar contract won't stop the city from using the technology, Coun. Mike Nickel said Saturday.

    The RCMP has charged Edmonton police officers Det. Tom Bell and Staff Sgt. Kerry Nisbett with breach of trust and accepting secret commissions.

    Affiliated Computer Systems of Dallas and its Canadian subsidiary, ACS Public Sector Solutions, were charged with offering secret commissions.

    ACS was awarded a $90-million, untendered 20-year contract with Edmonton for photo radar services.

    The contract was later revoked by the city.

    "This case really has nothing to do with the merits of photo radar," Nickel said. "But it has to do with internal controls within the police commission and police force. That's what it's all about."

    The public has long suspected photo radar is a cash cow for the city, Nickel said.

    "I've been on record in never having confidence in photo radar. I don't believe photo radar works," he said. "It's a licence for rich people to speed and it's no substitute for a cop pulling you over and telling you you're going too fast."

    There have also been questions over the last year about a $400,000 police "community awareness fund" generated by a portion of photo radar ticket proceeds, Nickel said.

    "Why would the police force want to be open to that kind of criticism? If they're going to continue with photo radar, which I hope they wouldn't ... I've always said the police should be funded out of general revenue, and not by tickets and fines."

    Nickel said he'd support suspending photo radar until the cloud of controversy clears, but he doesn't believe this will happen.

    "I would love that. But that's not going to happen; that would be impractical."

    Coun. Karen Leibovici, a member of the Edmonton Police Commission, said any legal issues will be dealt with by the courts and the police commission will handle matters with ACS.

    "If there is a problem, it is more with the tendering process."

    But Leibovici defends photo radar and said citizens can have confidence in it.

    "The technology is proven," she said. "I'm one of those who believes that photo radar does serve a purpose. I wouldn't be one to say that we need to suspend the service."

    Murray Billett, vice-chairman of the police commission, said members of the oversight body have their work cut out for them before a meeting next Sunday to consider whether ACS should continue with its month-to-month contract to provide photo radar.

    The commission will likely seek legal advice before making a decision on the matter, Billett said.

    "There are options and we have to explore all of them," he said.

    "What's noteworthy in all of this is the reputation of the police service. If you take a look at our crime stats, they were down five per cent last year. We've got a really good police service and the record speaks for itself."
    © The Edmonton Journal 2006
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  2. #2
    Yoda of Radar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005


    Another version of this story:

    Mandel keen to clean up photo radar mess

    Paula Simons
    The Edmonton Journal

    Saturday, February 18, 2006

    Clarity. That's what Mayor Stephen Mandel is promising us.

    His pledge comes in response to the news that the RCMP have charged a controversial American company, Affiliated Computer Services, with offering secret commissions to two officers in the Edmonton Police Service's traffic section.

    Det. Tom Bell, who once ran the city's photo radar program, faces three counts of breach of trust and one count of accepting a secret commission.

    Staff Sgt. Kerry Nisbet, the former head of the city's traffic section, faces two charges of breach of trust and one of accepting secret commissions.

    "Those kinds of things disappoint me no end," says Mandel.

    But Bell and Nisbet haven't just been accused of accepting commissions. They're also accused of twisting the research data to make photo radar look more efficient than it actually was.

    On Friday, the mayor said he would ask the city administration for a full report of exactly what went wrong with the photo radar contracting process.

    "You will have clarity," he told me.

    Goodness knows we need some to get to the bottom of this stinky mess.

    In 1996, the city first signed a contract with Dallas-based ACS, formerly Lockheed Martin, to run the city's photo radar program.

    The company got an annual fee of $300,000, plus a cash bonus for every photo ticket the police issued for speeding and running red lights. That amounted to $15.25 a ticket, plus GST.

    Those per-ticket fees were the real moneymakers for ACS, worth 10 times more than its $300,000 base fee. In 2004, the ACS contract with the city was worth $3.2 million a year.

    But there's more. Beginning in July 1999, for every photo radar ticket, 50 cents went into a separate interest-bearing "community awareness" account.

    That fund wasn't included in the police budget.

    It operated, if you'll forgive the pun, under the radar.

    All spending from the fund was personally authorized by the staff sergeant from the traffic section and an ACS vice-president.

    Between July 1999 and August 2004, the fund amassed $437,742.14.

    Of that, $362,482.73 was apparently spent on traffic safety promotion.

    Spent how, precisely?

    The police force still won't say, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

    It was all a setup for disaster.

    Why on earth did the city and police commission ever authorize a contract that set up a slush fund, outside the police budget, outside public oversight, controlled by one staff sergeant and a private businessman?

    And why on earth did we ever contract with a for-profit U.S. company to run our photo radar system on a per-ticket basis in the first place? That tainted the program from the beginning. It created no incentive for the company to encourage safe driving. As a matter of fact, San Diego had to suspend its photo radar program after a court there ruled that this same company, ACS, had placed its cameras there, not in the most dangerous intersections, but where it would make the most cash.

    Elsewhere in the U.S., ACS has made headlines for its aggressive lobbying tactics, for making large contributions to political campaigns or flying potential clients on lavish junkets.

    Fast forward to March 2004. The ACS contract came up for renewal, a 20-year deal, potentially worth $90 million.

    Normally, a contract that size would have been sent out to competitive tender. Instead, Bell prepared a report for city council, recommending that the ACS contract be renewed without tender. In his report, Bell claimed there were no other vendors who could provide the service ACS offered and that even if there were, the cost of switching would be prohibitive.

    And so, city council's community services committee rubber-stamped Bell's recommendation and renewed the ACS deal -- even though it was one of the largest untendered contracts the city had ever seen, even though the police commission had never approved the deal, even though there were other companies out there.

    It was only after an anonymous whistle-blower raised allegations about gifts and trips for senior traffic cops from ACS reps that council reversed its decision -- and that the RCMP was called in.

    We're still contracting with ACS to run our photo radar system month to month. According to a filing the ACS made with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this week, that deal brings ACS revenues of $2 million US annually.

    Thank goodness we brought in an external police force, the RCMP, to conduct a thorough and impartial criminal investigation. No internal review could possibly have given us the same sense of reassurance. A criminal trial can now get to the bottom of these allegations.

    Meanwhile, the credibility of our entire photo radar program has been undermined. How effective is photo radar? How does it compare, in terms of efficiency, with putting more traffic cops on patrol? The RCMP charges suggest that the pro-photo radar data the Edmonton Police Service has been relying on and citing publicly may actually be deeply suspect.

    And just how much longer are we going to go on paying millions to ACS, a company under indictment, to run our photo radar system? What kind of suckers are we? You want clarity? Well, it's clearly time to suspend our current photo radar program -- and find some better way to keep our streets safe.
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  3. #3
    Yoda of Radar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005

    Default UK police win the right to camouflage speed cams

    Go slow: police win the right to camouflage speed cameras
    By Ben Webster
    The prominent yellow boxes may be harder to identify from next year
    MOTORISTS face the return of hidden speed cameras after rules governing their siting and visibility cease to be enforced from April 2007.

    Camera partnerships, which include police and local authorities, will be able to repaint yellow cameras to make them blend into the background.

    They will also be able to install cameras where there is a speeding problem but little history of crashes.

    At present the partnerships are bound by strict rules issued by the Department for Transport. The cameras must be painted bright yellow and be visible from at least 60m (200ft) away. They can be installed only at sites where there have been at least three collisions causing death or serious injury and three causing slight injury within a kilometre in the previous three years.

    Many partnerships believe that the rules are too restrictive. Last autumn, Richard Brunstrom, the Chief Constable of North Wales Police, said that many more lives would be saved if there were more flexibility in camera location.

    He said: “Parents often write to us and ask us to put a camera outside a school because the traffic is so dangerous. It’s very difficult to write back and say, ‘Please let us know when your son is killed and then we can consider putting a camera there.’ ”

    Alistair Darling, the Transport Secretary, said in December that partnerships would no longer be able to keep the cash from camera fines to pay for more cameras. They will get grants from a central road safety fund to pay for cameras or alternative measures such as new markings or humps.

    Ian Bell, the camera liaison officer for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said that regional differences were likely. “If a highway authority wants to install more cameras and they have the money there will be nothing to stop them. They may decide to put cameras in places the criteria do not currently allow, such as in villages and around schools.”

    Lee Murphy, speed camera manager for Cheshire, said: “If the rules weren’t compulsory we could use cameras to tackle emerging trends rather than waiting for the minimum number of collisions.”

    A Department of Transport spokesman said: “Local authorities will have freedom to use cameras where appropriate and where they see fit. But we do not want to see a return to the bad old days of cameras being hidden behind trees. We are minded to use guidance to achieve this, but if authorities flout it we will consider regulation. If they want to paint cameras grey we will want to know why.”

    Kevin Delaney, the head of road safety at the RAC Foundation, said: “We are concerned that some partnerships will conceal cameras and risk losing the trust of motorists. It makes sense for cameras to be yellow because it slows people down at accident blackspots.”

    Brake, a road safety charity, welcomed the new flexibility for partnerships. Mary Williams, its chief executive, said: “Requiring casualties before action is abhorrent and results in needless deaths. We welcome the opportunity for covert enforcement because too many motorists simply slow down briefly for a yellow camera.”
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