Robert A. Teegarden's Blog

September 9, 2012

City Employees Exempt from Fines for Running Red Lights

Filed under: American,Civics,Good Administration,Government — by Robert @ 1:03 pm

 A recent article in the Rochester, NY, Democrat and Chronicle noted that Rochester city employees seem to have a serious tendency to run red lights. But when cited, the city argues that the individuals “may be disciplined” but are exempt from paying fines.  The article is of note for it outlines the beginnings of a slippery slope that will evolve into chaos on the streets and further distance “government employees” from the citizens they are sworn to represent.

Wrong.  Bad policy.  Back the red-light truck up.  Don’t do it. Let the consequences fall. 

The offenders included folks working in public works, solid waste or refuse, building services, cemetery, library vehicles, animal services, police vehicles, including the police chief himself.

I might consider some variance for police officers in the performance of their duties, but public works, solid waste, building services, cemetery, library and animal services—definitely not.

I used to admire our state highway patrol officers.  They were the “barons of the boulevard.”  They were highly trained, honest, moral citizens with a badge.  They didn’t flaunt that badge in your face.  They served the public (citizenry) well.  On one rainy night in Oakland, California, while I waited in traffic for a serious accident ahead of me, I watched one of these “barons” pull off a miracle.  Six lanes of traffic were to be merged into one and this officer had to place flares on the rain-slick overpass.  Rather than step out of the protection of his cruiser, he dropped the lighted flares from his window as he crossed three lanes.  Once he got to the end, he proceeded in reverse and, using his mirrors, he gently “popped” each flare with the right rear tire to scoot it across the concrete to exactly the right spot to merge the upcoming traffic.  I was impressed.

But I’ve noticed since then how sloppy our government employees drive.  I’m told that police are allowed a five mile-per-hour speed over the posted limit without the use of their red lights.  In other words, they can break the law up to a point.  But this “grace” doesn’t include red lights.  Weaving in and out of traffic with no red lights. No signals.  Speeding in excess of five mph over the legal limit, again with no lights.  Tail-gating.  I won’t even get into a comparison with the want-to-be, pretend, Napolitano-nympho TSA agents

The law of the land in New York is if one runs a red light, one pays a fine.  Period.  And that’s the way it should be; Richard Nixon taught us all that NO ONE is above the law.

Did you know one can perform a citizen’s arrest on a police officer who breaks the law?  I wouldn’t recommend it because of the retaliatory potential of an armed group of individuals, but it is possible.  But this is my point.

The one thing we all have in common when we’re on the highways is that we’re all citizens.  We’re all doing what citizens do—supposedly obeying the laws.  There are private citizens and pubic citizens commissioned to protect and serve.  If a citizen breaks the law there are consequences and those consequences must fall; otherwise, we start sliding toward tyranny and then anarchy.  After all, if a government employee doesn’t have to pay a fine for breaking the law, what should anyone else?

The Rochester article does give a couple of clues as to the real problem.  Here are just a couple of tidbits to consider:

“But Sheppard said most do involve emergency responses, and typically are rolling stops on right turns.”

If they are an emergency response, then red lights should be on.  How do we know this isn’t just a mad dash to the donut shop?  These “rolling stops on right turns,” sometimes referred to as a “Hollywood stop,” are still a violation of the red light ordinance.  Sheppard is making excuses for a lack of discipline. “Most involve emergency responses?”  How does he know when he cannot remember what he was doing when he was cited.  No, this is kind of like saying it’s a matter of national security—which is another way of saying “butt out.”

“There also was a stretch in April when city employees recorded 24 violations in 27 days.”

Common Sense tells you why. They got away with it. If there’s no consequence, the behavior continues.

“Two vehicles – one in animal services and the other in solid waste – were ticketed four times. The data doesn’t show whether the same employees were driving each time.”

I know ignorance is bliss, but I’m sure they have a check-out system that tells them exactly who was driving the vehicles in question.  If not, they’d better design one real quickly.

“He said some employees already have faced discipline, which can escalate from a note in their file to suspension to termination. The disciplinary process varies by bargaining unit, Redon said. Those terms allow for assessment of damages up to $100 but do not address monetary fines, said Mike Mazzeo, president of the police union, who suspects any discipline will need to be negotiated.”

This is the most troubling part of the report.  This says that the law of the land can be trumped by a union contract, kind of like how the teacher’s union operates.  The disciplinary process is the prerogative of the employer.  But the consequences of the law still stand.  Run a red light and you pay a fine.  Do it enough and you loose your license/privilege to drive in addition to whatever your employer demands.

The union already is upset that public safety aides, not police officers, review violations to determine whether tickets should be issued. And Mazzeo questioned the value of cameras, as intersections with cameras have yet to show a noticeable decline in violations.

This is a classic case of demonizing the messenger when we don’t like the truth in the message.  Citizens should be making these reviews, not police officers.  These citizens are just as capable to determine if someone breaks the law.  Likewise, the union officials can’t see the value of these cameras in the first place because, according to them, they don’t show a decline in violations.  Of course they don’t, especially when the greatest offenders get off scot-free.  But they sure catch a picture of the violators!

Union officials are NOT arbitrators of the law.   Run a red light and you pay a fine.  The only exception is if your red lights are flashing and you are on an emergency.


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