Bill banning speed cameras in police cars passes House committee

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The House Committee on Montgomery County Legislation approved a bill Tuesday that would prohibit Montgomery police from using traffic cameras in unoccupied cars, a practice approved by the Alabama Legislature in 2011.

SB201, sponsored by Sens. Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery) and Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery), comes out of public resentment for the police practice, which essentially establishes decoy cars throughout the city and issues tickets via mail.

The 2011 bill specifies that the tickets should be mailed to residents within 30 days of the offense and include a picture of the offending vehicle and license plate, a description of the offense and the time, date and location of the violation.

An amendment to the legislation was offered, which would have allowed the cars to be used in residential and school areas but prohibit them on four-lane roads, federal and state highways and in construction zones, but the committee tabled it.

In a statement on Facebook, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said he was “disappointed” with the committee’s decision, saying that the cameras in residential and school areas are “a tremendous force multiplier that supplement manned enforcement by our traffic officers while allowing other police personnel to fight crime, protect and serve,” explaining “our neighborhoods, our schools and our children” would stand to lose the most.

“We will continue to oppose this bill when it reaches the floor of the Alabama House and again ask the members of the Montgomery delegation to seek the opinion of the neighborhood associations and schools regarding the effectiveness of the speed car cameras in unmanned marked police cars,” Strange continued. “Speed cameras work.”

The cameras generated just over $136,000 in annual revenue in 2015 — less than 6/10 of 1 percent of the city’s general fund — for a department whose budget is slated to surpass $230 million this year.

The legislation, which simply states that the 2011 bill be completely repealed, has already passed the Senate and is now cleared to go before the House of Representatives.

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