Charges won't halt photo radar
Coun. Nickel says case about police policies, not merits of the technology
Click here to find out more!
* Printer friendly
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