Red light cameras in Pinellas County have revealed that law enforcement’s running red lights have not resulted in tickets in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Port Richey. Instead, law enforcement merely receives an oral warning. Other agencies, including Tampa, Hillsborough County, South Pasadena, Gulfport, New Port Richey, and Temple Terrace, require police officers that run lights to pay a fine.
St. Petersburg Police Chief Chuck Harmon explains that the city addresses law enforcement’s red light infractions on a “case by case” basis and admits it has not definitive policy tracking discipline of officers under these circumstances. At least 18 St. Petersburg police officers were caught running red lights with no sirens or lights between January and April of 2012.
Is this fair? Linda Hallas, the South Pasadena lawyer who assists in reviewing the town’s camera program believes it’s “crazy not to have them pay.” Matt Florell, a camera critic reported to the St. Petersburg City Counsel that “[t]hey’re not being treated the same as us . . . [i]t doesn’t seem fair, does it?” Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Corporal Troy Morgan oversees a red light program which fines violating officers. Morgan opines, “It’s unfair to the public . . .[i]f you’re guilty of committing a violation, you should be issued a violation.”
Chief Harmon attempts to downplay the issue by stating, “I don’t want people to think this is a big deal. We drive 4 million miles a year, and it’s happened a handful of times. It’s not as pervasive as it appears.”
We believe that running a red light can result in a serious accident and injuries to drivers and pedestrians. It doesn’t sit well with us that law enforcement get a free pass for failing to abide by the law, especially since it’s a police officer’s job to administer citations for traffic violations to other St. Petersburg drivers. What do you think? Overlooked injustice or minor detail? Shouldn’t a police officer be treated the same and held to the same standard as everyone else?