Questions about police caught on red light cameras - FOX 13 News

Questions about police caught on red light cameras

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GULFPORT (FOX 13) -

If Gulfport has three cameras recording red light violations, and has cited four St. Petersburg Police cars, why has St. Petersburg, with more than 20 similar cameras, cited zero?

That's the question one community activist is asking.

The answer from St. Petersburg Police spokesman Mike Puetz: 

"We are catching some of our police cruisers, we're also catching other emergency vehicles running red lights," Puetz said.

Puetz went on to explain to FOX 13 News that violations caught on camera are sent to a supervisor, who finds out whether the officer had a valid reason for running a red light. 

It has happened more than 20 times in recent months, but the outcomes haven't been documented.

"Unfortunately, we have not captured data on this particular issue so we don't know exactly what the final outcome in each and every case has been," Puetz admitted.

"I think that's wrong," said Matt Florell, who brought the issue up. "I think everybody should be accountable just like a normal person should, and there should be documentation, there should be a way to research what happened." 

Puetz said his department now realizes that. 

"What the citizen has done is create an issue in terms of us looking at the policies [of documenting dispositions]," Puetz said.

Gulfport required such documentation before dismissing three of its four citations involving St. Petersburg police cruisers. 

"It has to be written, because if it's just verbal there's no evidence of it in the future. It needs to be something we can point to and say that's why," Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent said. 

He showed one email from a St. Petersburg police major saying a specific violation was justified because "...the officer was responding to an in-progress felony incident where the suspect was believed to be present at the scene."

The officer/violator paid the $158 ticket in the fourth case.

Florell has posted the Gulfport videos on a website called stpetecameras.org. 

"I've never gotten a red light camera ticket," he says, but is a long-standing opponent of red light cameras. 

"I'm a technologist. I love using technology when it's right to be used," he said. 

Florell believes issues like this highlight a critical issue in the deployment of red light cameras. 

"There are no standards across Florida. It's pretty much every municipality for themselves," Florell said. "I think that speaks to the [Florida] legislature."

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