A new bill in the Oregon Legislature would remove a major barrier to the use of automated photo radar cameras.
Current Oregon law requires that every citation issued by a fixed speed camera must be reviewed by a sworn police officer. While well-intentioned, this statute has led to delays in citation processing, higher personnel costs to do the work — and most unfortunately — a bureaucratic reluctance to install new cameras.
In Portland for example, despite clear benefits of fixed speed safety cameras, they are installed in only four locations. That’s just eight cameras in operation since being given the authority to use them in 2015. One big problem is our procurement process, but the other is strictly due to police personnel.
An August 2019 story in The Willamette Week titled, Speed Cameras Save Lives. So Why Does Portland Have Only Eight of Them?, explained the police staffing bottleneck:
One stumbling block is a requirement included in the original legislation that a sworn police officer review all film from the cameras and sign each citation issued… Lourenco, the traffic division captain, says the Police Bureau never thought that was a good idea. “PPB didn’t want to partner in the project,” she says. But it had no choice… Today, Lourenco says, it has the full-time equivalent of 12—and one of them spends a lot of time looking at film. That’s a job other cities, such as Denver, employ civilians to do. Portland could too, if lawmakers allowed it. “PBOT issues parking tickets and they have no police power,” Lourenco adds.
House Bill 3357 could change that. Introduced in early March by Representative Jeff Reardon (D-Happy Valley) the bill would amend Oregon Revised Statute 810.436 (1) (f). That section currently states a “police officer” must review photographs sent in by the cameras. HB 3357 would add, “A police officer or a duly authorized traffic enforcement agent of a law enforcement agency.”
This is the legislative effort PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty alluded to in our interview with her last month.
The bill is currently in the Joint Transportation Committee and was just scheduled for a public hearing on Thursday, March 18th. Stay tuned.
UPDATE, 3/15: The Willamette Week reports that the Portland Police Association (the union that represents PPB officers) opposes this bill.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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