Hardesty to legislators: Police review of traffic camera citations ‘doesn’t make sense’

“We don’t have time to wait for a sworn officer to read the ticket. It doesn’t make sense.”
— Jo Ann Hardesty, City Commissioner

Hardesty at House Rules Committee meeting Thursday.

Citing “skyrocketing” traffic deaths, Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty testified at the Oregon Legislature Thursday in support of a bill that would allow her transportation bureau to more quickly process photo radar camera citations.

House Bill 4105 would give Oregon cities a new option for who can review and authorize photographs of red light runners and speeders caught by automated traffic cameras. Current Oregon law requires that a police officer must do this job. HB 4105, sponsored Happy Valley Democrat Jeff Reardon, would give cities the option of having a “traffic enforcement agent” do the job (or they could have a mix of police officers and civilian agents).

Supporters of the bill say the police oversight requirement is unnecessary, expensive and causes major processing delays.

Rep. Reardon told fellow lawmakers (including Committee Chair Barbara Smith Warner who is married to PBOT Director Chris Warner) at the bill’s first hearing Thursday that the cameras have been successful in reducing speeding and crashes and that, “We should look to keep costs low and put our police officers to work doing what they’ve been trained to do,” instead of, “sitting behind a computer checking the photos.”

Commissioner Hardesty cited the major spike in deaths outlined in PBOT’s 2021 Traffic Crash Report and told the committee, “We need to act urgently and use every tool available to reverse this trend… we don’t have time to wait for a sworn officer to read the ticket. It doesn’t make sense.”

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(Slides from PBOT presentation to legislators.)

In 2019 and 2020 there were 72,304 enforcement camera cases filed with Multnomah County. As reported by Willamette Week in 2019, the mandatory use of a police officer to review camera photographs has caused severe delays in the City of Portland’s ability to expand their traffic camera program.

Here’s more from Hardesty’s testimony:

“Today police officers must perform this review and this creates a bottleneck that will keep us from adding much needed cameras into our system. In the face of current and projected police staffing shortages, as well as increased calls for emergency responses, demand for law enforcement and resources is at an all-time high. We need the option of having trained certified agents to take on some of the administrative burden of reviewing and signing tickets.”

PBOT Traffic Safety Section Manager Dana Dickman also testified at the hearing. She said the new administrative position of “traffic enforcement agent” would be trained and modeled after PBOT’s existing team of parking enforcement officers (who are under the leadership of PBOT’s Parking Enforcement Manager Mike Crebs, a former captain of the PPB’s (now defunct) Traffic Division). The new agents would undergo mandatory training and would be appointed and sworn-in by the city.

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Dickman underscored the need for more citation processing resources by telling Rules Committee members that PBOT’s current system with just 18 cameras (10 red light cameras and eight speed cameras) is “very small for the size of our city” and that in order to get their planned 40 cameras online they need to remove the police staffing bottleneck, “to get this lifesaving tool in more places.” Dickman also said using non-police agents would significantly reduce the cost of the program because all ticket review is currently done on police overtime.

Police staffing issues aren’t the only problem for PBOT’s camera program. Commissioner Hardesty told BikePortland in December that she was so frustrated with the late delivery times of the City’s current camera vendor, Conduent, she considered “firing” them. “I know supply delays are a big issue all around everywhere, but this particular vendor has been extremely unresponsive.” Hardesty didn’t mention her feelings about the vendor in a statement on HB 4105 released on Thursday and only blamed delays of their outstanding camera order on “supply chain delays.”

None of the House Rules Committee members expressed opposition to the bill Thursday, but it was only the first reading and no vote was taken. A work session on the bill is scheduled for February 8th.

This is the second session in a row lawmakers have considered this legislation. The 2021 effort, HB 3357, didn’t make it out of committee.

CORRECTION, 12:53 pm: This story originally said the civilian traffic enforcement agents would need to be sworn in by a law enforcement agency. That was incorrect because the language was recently changed in the -1 amendment to read that the agent will be sworn in by, “the governing body of the incorporated city.” I regret any confusion the error caused.

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Nora
Nora
5 months ago

I really, really hope this bill passes this session. We need more speed cameras so badly. Speeding is out of control!

cmh89
cmh89
5 months ago

I know that the usual suspects will come in and have endless ink about Hardesty is personally destroying the city but she is on the right track for so many things. Automated traffic cameras would be a game changer for biking/pedestrian safety as well as motorist safety. Worth more than any piece of infrastructure for sure.

Maybe useless Ted will crawl out of the woodwork and back this in his capacity as Police Commissioner, that way he could have done one useful thing for the community in his two terms. I’m sure the anti-safety folks from the law enforcement community will come out to oppose it. If it gets to a vote it will win. It will interesting to see who tries to kill it.

maxD
maxD
5 months ago

Apparently Portland also requires a sworn police officer to run VIN numbers on abandoned vehicles which is part of the reason the City’s storage lots are full and the City is no longer picking up abandoned vehicles. That seems like another job that could be terr done by a trained civil servant rather than a police officer collecting overtime! I would hope the Police would see this the City shifting resources to free the police officers up to devote more time and energy to the essential work they are uniquely trained and qualified to do.

jonno
jonno
5 months ago
Reply to  maxD

A job for a civil servant? Heck, I’d do this FOR FREE if it meant more wrecks got removed. Ditto for driving the bike lane sweeper…

J_R
J_R
4 months ago
Reply to  maxD

And why is the PPB’s public information spokesperson a Lieutenant? A spokesperson hardly needs to be a sworn officer. BPOT’s information people are not engineers. I suppose the PBA will fight to keep every position unless we agree to give them all a raise.

J_R
J_R
5 months ago

The only training needed is a single page of the children’s book “Go, Dog, Go.” The relevant page, complete with an illustration, has the words “Stop, Dogs. Stop! The light is red now.”
The entire process could be performed by jurors who could do it from home rather than coming to the courthouse.

Fuzzy Blue Line
Fuzzy Blue Line
5 months ago

Hardesty’s testimony is more noteworthy for what she didn’t say than what she did say. We can debate all day long on whether uniformed officers need to review photo citations (they don’t). But the utopian dreams of Hardesty and so many other “defund the police” types is playing itself out in major progressive cities across the USA. Spiking rates of crime, murders, violent attacks on police officers condoned by many progressive politicians and radical far left spokespeople. You may hate the police in Portland (like Hardesty) but that’s not the type of community I want to live in. I have many friends in law enforcement & sorry to burst your bubble but they don’t fit the ACAB narrative so many BP readers are peddling.

oliver
oliver
5 months ago

“We can debate all day long on whether uniformed officers need to review photo citations (they don’t).” ~Here ends the part of the conversation applicable to the issue at hand.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but the attempt to derail a serious discussion about road safety using garden variety anti-Portland boilerplate (I nearly filled my bingo card in 5 short sentences) is both tiresome and very obvious.

Fuzzy Blue Line
Fuzzy Blue Line
5 months ago

This article is about Hardesty’s testimony on removing police from a current statutory responsibility to make it easier to implement more automated enforcement. Whether or not it is good idea (I think it is as do most others) her views on what other functions currently performed by police that need to be replaced with citizens are very relevant to the discussion. Community safety goes beyond just the transportation system and needs to be looked at holistically not in a vacuum.

Jay Dedd
Jay Dedd
5 months ago

Okay, then maybe mention “what other functions currently performed by police” that she said “need to be replaced with citizens.” (You didn’t do that yet.)

The Dude
The Dude
5 months ago

What about the lies, Jonathan?

You claim these comments are to foster discussion, but the entire point of this post is that the “radical far left” has gotten its wish to “defund the police” and that is causing an increase in crime. THIS IS A DAMN LIE.

Even the most cursory Google search disproves it. See, for example: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2022/01/28/fact-check-police-funding-not-linked-homicide-spikes-experts-say/9054639002/

Repeating these lies makes people believe them. And you are the only one giving these liars a platform to spread their lies. Even the Oregonian doesn’t do it anymore. Your comment section has become a vehicle for disseminating right-wing misinformation.

Nobody comes here to discuss lies, or to spend time refuting them. Please make it stop. I can’t read this isht anymore.

The Dude
The Dude
4 months ago

Jonathan, The Dude cannot abide your decision to continue to provide a free platform for racists to publish their views. Contributing to or supporting BikePortland is not consistent with my values. So, you won’t be hearing form me again. Best of luck to you.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  The Dude

It is true that in Portland, actual police defunding was cursory, and much if not all of the funding was eventually restored, so one could argue that there could not have been any actual impact on policing as a result. That would gloss over a huge part of the story, and would be a gross oversimplification, but it is not an illigitemate argument to make.

The truth is that no one really knows why shootings are up so dramatically, so calling one particular theory that is both plausible and widely held a “DAMN LIE” and demanding that someone be muted for making it feels pretty abusive to me. Citing a USA Today Q&A as definitive proof is laughable. “Proof” that this opinion is wrong simply does not exist, even if it is not a convincing explanation in and of itself.

In fact, many people have cited the 2020 protests and related policing reforms as a possible factor in the wave of violence, including in The Atlantic, Al Jazeera, the Washington Post, and many other respectable outlets.

All of the sources I have read agree that the situation is complex, and that it is unlikely any one factor explains the whole story. So a fair critique of the comment you were responding to is that attributing the increase in violence to any single cause is likely mistaken, and there are reasons to suspect that reductions in police funding were not, in themselves, a direct cause of the crime surge.

If we were to discard all simplistic explanations for complex problems, labeling them lies and propaganda, this forum would be devoid of comments, including many of mine.

As a fellow devotee of bicycling and related conversation, I would politely ask that you tone down your “silence them” rhetoric, focus more on the underlying ideas and arguments, and worry less about the presumed politics of the people you are conversing with.

We’re all in this together.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/09/america-having-violence-wave-not-crime-wave/620234/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.aljazeera.com/amp/news/2021/11/3/hld-surge-in-us-homicides-continues-in-2021-why

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/we-dont-know-why-violent-crime-is-up-but-we-know-theres-more-than-one-cause/2021/07/09/467dd25c-df9a-11eb-ae31-6b7c5c34f0d6_story.html

The Dude
The Dude
5 months ago

You keep the post with the lie in it and refuse to publish the one that points out the lie. I think that says it all, Jonathan.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
5 months ago
Reply to  The Dude

I don’t for a minute believe that the Defund Police movement is the SOLE reason for the increase in criminality, but it and many others reasons all working together haven’t helped at all. So I wouldn’t classify it as an outright lie. It’s just a piece of a much larger puzzle.
When folks post in a forum do your really expect them to write an essay covering every aspect of what they are writing? I know I don’t. Sometimes I just post with my gut and don’t over think it too much.

The Dude
The Dude
5 months ago
Reply to  The Dude

Now you made a liar out of me. Dang, let’s start the weekend.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
5 months ago
Reply to  The Dude

If that’s what you want to call yourself, please go right ahead, as I sure didn’t.
Enjoy your weekend.

Joe
Joe
5 months ago

Biggest cop killer is covid, so if you care about your buddies, urge them to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.

JeffP
JeffP
5 months ago

Interesting observation from stop light/speed cams on Beaverton-Hillsdale at SW Griffith: After many years of them being in place, it appears to me that the far majority of drivers know and recognize them, slowing and not running late lights – HOWEVER, the impact is very limited to the immediate area of those cameras. I’ve had vehicles speed by in excess of 45mph [30 mph zone] and hammer the brakes at mid-block knowing the range of the camera; pass the camera; speed off at original rate of speed.
I would say though they work, they have little overall effect to behavior but if someone were to look at ‘the numbers’ all would be rosy and they could tout the significant improvement there. Good? yes. Effective? hmmmmmm.

cmh89
cmh89
5 months ago
Reply to  JeffP

Good? yes. Effective? hmmmmmm

I’d call that expected behavior. There is a area around the one on Marine Drive from between the warning to where the camera is that people actually follow traffic laws. The solution is to have a lot more cameras. No law abiding citizen should be worried about cameras and we shouldn’t give weight to the criminals who hate the speed cameras.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

No law abiding citizen should be worried about cameras and we shouldn’t give weight to the criminals who hate the speed cameras.

If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide! (Yes, no expectation of privacy in public, but also no expectation of being recorded by the government everywhere you go; the cameras are at least occasionally set to record everyone, not just “criminals”.)

https://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/2016/07/are_recordings_from_traffic-ca.html

cmh89
cmh89
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Am I supposed to be scared the government might take pictures of me?

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

Am I supposed to be scared the government might take pictures of me?

If you’re concerned about civil liberties, you probably should be uncomfortable deploying systems (even when well-intended) that can be used for widespread societal surveillance, especially without a clear legal framework about how that data can be stored and used.

So yes.

cmh89
cmh89
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Wow! Wait till you find out what your cell phone does!

Fortunately I think we can talk about actual policies rather than hypothetical ones. The government already has everything in place for mass surveillance if they want to do it. I’d take the huge and obvious upside to traffic cameras over the abstract and unlikely future where the government wants to watch me go to New Seasons.

You’ve been watching too many movies.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

In order for the government to get my cell phone data, they need to go through a legal process. This is what is called a legal framework, and is what I suggest we need for speed cameras as well.

It is interesting that in the wake of the Trump presidency, you seem insensitive to the potential anti-democratic abuse of governmental power.

cmh89
cmh89
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

In order for the government to get my cell phone data, they need to go through a legal process.

Well, not really as we saw with Snowdens leaks. Besides, are you thinking that a government that wants to track people through cameras can’t just change the rules?

It is interesting that in the wake of the Trump presidency, you seem insensitive to the potential anti-democratic abuse of governmental power.

What about the trump presidency made you think fascists care about rules and regulations in the first place?

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

I don’t know if you noticed, but it was rules and regulations that stopped Trump from stealing the election. Even if they are occasionally transgressed, rules are a critical check on the abuse of power. The fight against “fascism” will be won by lawyers and bureaucrats in courtrooms and government offices, not people playing soldier and brawling with cops on the street.

So yes, the rules matter. Dismiss them at your peril.

soren
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

The rules don’t matter, Watts. What matters is an informed and educated public that gives the tiniest cr*p about politics, civics, and ethics/moral philosophy. In other words, what actually matters is almost the exact opposite of 22nd century USAnian culture.

cmh89
cmh89
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I don’t know if you noticed, but it was rules and regulations that stopped Trump from stealing the election.

haha thats a take on the situation I haven’t seen before. ‘Rules and regulations’ stopped the coup? I’m not sure how you think that’s possible. The only thing that stopped the coup was that the military didn’t back the fascists and there weren’t enough trump loyalist in the states the fascists needed to overturn. That’s it. Electing Democrats to critical positions is what stopped the coup attempt. The fascist trump administration broke the law on a daily basis. Our rules and regulations are so weak that there was a legitimate attempt to overthrow the US government and the ring leader is still free and clear.

The fight against “fascism” will be won by lawyers and bureaucrats in courtrooms and government offices, not people playing soldier and brawling with cops on the street.

Ah yes, because fascists are known for their respect for the law. /s

I’m not dismissing rules, that’s just a straw man you made up to argue against.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

The rules make it harder to get the non-ideologues to go along with an illegal request. It’s not about whether Trump will follow the rules, or even his flunkies, but the civil servants on next level down and those below them who actually need to do the stuff who will think twice or slow walk or create the paper trail or just not do something if they think they might lose their job or end up in jail for going along.

And yes, you have denigrated rules and legal frameworks and other safeguards as ineffective or unnecessary throughout this discussion, which started out as a request for a legal structure regulating the “off-label” use of traffic cameras. Do you now agree it would be wise to have some regulations in place before someone wants to get “creative”?

It seems rational to create obstacles to misuse when creating our expanding systems with the potential for abuse. I really don’t see your objection.

ivan
ivan
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

There are legitimate concerns about how traffic camera data is stored (usually on private company’s servers, contracted with by the municipality), how long it is stored (sometimes indefinitely), whether it can be used for data mining (these are tech companies, and techbros gonna techbro), and under what conditions the municipality, the general public, and the road user captured on camera can see the footage (e.g. is it FOIA-able? can you see it if you challenge it in court? can the city use de-identified footage to improve road design? etc.)

These are not small or unimportant questions, and there are lots of organizations out there advocating around them — the EFF, Fight for the Future, in some cases the ACLU, various local grassroots groups (I’m thinking particularly of Oakland Privacy). I also don’t love an increase in public surveillance, or the overreliance on technological “solutions” to what is really just bad urban design. It’d be a lot better if the city spent more effort redesigning roads to be safer, absolutely.

Under the current conditions, though, I’d still be supportive of wider adoption of traffic cameras, while participating in and advocating for privacy around how they are used. Lives are literally on the line, and spending time getting the tech perfect while people are dying is immoral. Traffic cameras are only stopgap measures, but at the moment they can help stanch the bleeding.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  ivan

I am convinced we can have speed cameras without surrendering our rights to not be monitored. We just need a legal framework that outlines what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

We have a long record of introducing new enforcement tools under exigent circumstances, or as a temporary measure, or just for the worst of the bad guys, that start to be applied more broadly. One easy example (of many I could pick from) is civil forfeiture. If you don’t know what it is or how it has been abused, google it (though based on your comment I suspect you won’t need to).

I know civil rights are unfashionable these days, but they’re really important.

ivan
ivan
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I have no argument with that.

But just to get things back on topic, I don’t think any of what you’re talking about is a prerequisite from removing the requirement for sworn officers to review every camera-based ticket. That’s all this bill addresses.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  ivan

I can’t think of any reasons for requiring a sworn officer to review tickets, but I would like to hear both sides of the argument before I come to my own conclusion.

erd
erd
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I was asking my lawyer friend about it. He gave me a little talk. The reason he stated was that only a law enforcement officer (a cop) can issue citations for violation of law. Non cops can deal with enforcing statues and ordinances(like meterfolks issuing parking tickets) though. It seems like this new proposal would be mixing those distinctions together a bit.

erd
erd
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I’ve never heard of the “right not to be monitored”. I like the concept, but I don’t think it’s really an explicit or implicit right that individuals/gov operate under. Not one from 4th amendment or precedent at least. Streets are public places and anyone can take a photo as they like, which is a nice liberty.

Civil forfeiture is interesting (you got me reading on it!), but also seems to be a tool that municipalities often abuse to absurd levels.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  erd

The “right not to be monitored” (my name) was at the core of the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision prohibiting the government from using GPS trackers to track a suspect’s car on public streets without a warrant. The government argued GPS tracking was akin to following a suspect (which no one disputes the police can do), but the Supreme Court disagreed, saying that such tracking was more intrusive and violated our fundamental right to privacy (which is not specifically enumerated in the constitution, but which the Court has repeatedly recognized nonetheless).

If the we create a much more comprehensive system of traffic cameras, as some here have proposed, it might become possible to conduct similar tracking using them. It is far easier to create guardrails to protect against that sort of abuse before it happens than it is once the police make something a “standard practice”.

https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/u-s-supreme-court-extends-constitution-to-gps-tracking

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
5 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

Even better. Have lots more dummy cameras, which would cost next to nothing. Have all the cameras on easy mounts, so they can be moved randomly so speeders do not know which are real and which aren’t. I believe it was BF Skinner who discovered the efficacy of unpredictable reinforcement.

austin
austin
5 months ago
Reply to  JeffP

Honestly, if some idiot is going to drive like an idiot, BUT Portland can get them to slow down at an intersection where pedestrians, cyclists, and other traffic may be crossing, etc… maybe that’s not a total bad thing.

ivan
ivan
5 months ago
Reply to  JeffP

Traffic cameras are designed to reduce danger at locations known to be dangerous. That they don’t have an effect outside of those locations is tautological. But unlike, say, automated speed traps motivated by revenue rather than safety, the whole point is that the dangerous conditions exist at that location, so the fact they only have an effect there is the whole point.

Red light cameras, for instance, help protect pedestrians (as well as other road users) in places where people are running red lights; they don’t stop cars from speeding elsewhere, but that’s not the point.

tl;dr traffic cameras ≠ speed traps necessarily; traffic cameras are designed to address safety where they’re located, not everywhere

mh
5 months ago

Thank you Jo Ann!

Go Biker
Go Biker
5 months ago
Reply to  mh

No thank you from me. She’s delaying the process and not helping speed the roll out of the cameras. She has a long history of being opposed to traffic cameras and other forms of traffic enforcement. Her personal beef with the police is making Portland a more dangerous place to bike and walk.

ivan
ivan
5 months ago
Reply to  Go Biker

Personally I think the police’s personal beef with the people of Portland (of whom they do not generally number) is a bigger threat.

Joe
Joe
5 months ago

I think 40 cameras is a good start if they are constantly being moved around at random. Otherwise people will learn to avoid them. There also needs to be real penalties for dangerous driving.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Joe

The penalties are fine; what we need is a real chance of getting caught.

Shawn
Shawn
5 months ago

There’s blatant drug trafficking at Dawson Park, right next to the N. Williams bike route, on a daily basis. There are regular shootings and occasional killings in the neighborhood as a result. I’d rather see the police doing something about all of that than sitting in an office certifying camera citations, which I could train my 12 year-old to do.

Bryan Morris
Bryan Morris
5 months ago
Reply to  Shawn

Well that would run afoul of the hard drug decriminalization Measure 110 that Oregonians in their wisdom passed. Which was just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. All you’ve got to do to see the result of Measure 110 is look around at all the squalid drug camps taking up every public space in town. Cause, meet Effect.

Shawn
Shawn
4 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Morris

That measure didn’t decriminalize drug dealing. The problem is not the law, it’s the enforcement. There’s a line of people and cars doing deals in Dawson Park most days, and shootings have become routine. None of that is permitted by Measure 110, which just decriminalized personal possession.

Charley
Charley
5 months ago

“Dickman also said using non-police agents would significantly reduce the cost of the program because all ticket review is currently done on police overtime.”

For crying out loud. We’re paying extra for cops to sit at a computer, instead of getting out into the city and solving some of these murders.

The legislature needs to pass this law ASAP, and I’m glad Hardesty argued in its favor.

erd
erd
4 months ago

I’m curious why the camera reviews are being done on overtime. It seems like it is just part of their core job duties. Oh who knows….

Amphitrite
Amphitrite
4 months ago
Reply to  erd

My understanding is that the Fixed Speed Cameras are a PBOT project, not a PPB mission. The agreement between PPB and PBOT is that the officers would review Fixed Speed Camera citations on OT, paid for by PBOT, instead of during their normal duty shifts.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
4 months ago
Reply to  erd

Maybe to pad their retirement like fire does with O/T?
You’ll likely see the Police Union fight any changes to this cushy setup.