Kansas City Red Light Camera Program

We had planned on drop-kicking writing about some self-righteous JOCO morons newer JOCO blogs when the following landed in our in-box:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 15, 2009
First red-light camera installation to be active Jan. 22
Initial installation includes 30-day warning period
The City of Kansas City, Mo., Public Works Department today announced that installation is nearly complete on the City’s first red-light safety cameras. The safety cameras will be installed at the intersection of Southwest Traffic-way and W. 39th Street and begin operation Jan. 22. There will be a 30-day warning period for the first red-light safety camera installation. Warnings will be sent to vehicle owners by mail.

Well!

Normally we would figure a City’s gotta do what a City’s gotta do and go about our business. However, this time a few points need be made.

1)Unless the City of Kansas City sends tickets via registered mail with a return receipt, there is absolutely no guarantee that any recipient will ever receive a ticket. My guess is that the tickets generated from the new photo enforcement cameras will be posted – at best – via First Class mail. However, it is far more likely the citations will be sent at bulk rates. Do you get all of your mail? I know I don’t and I can damn sure say the two families that lived here before us don’t.

If I don’t receive a ticket (for the sake of argument let us assume I am the sort of scofflaw that drives without a seatbelt and blows through red lights while drinking a vodka/tonic…in an open container!), how am I to know I did something wrong, much less that the City plans on issuing a bench warrant for my arrest?

2) If that ‘Artist’s Rendering’ above to is anywhere near accurate, the cameras do not espy the drivers of any of the rogue vehicles. For all Kansas City knows, the red light running car may be…Knight Rider!!! And you want to ticket me (the owner)? Asshats. 1

The problem here is the burden of proof remains on the owner of the car regardless of who might have, theoretically, actually “earned” the ticket. ANd, as it stands now, that is contrary to state law. 2

3) The U.S. Postal service.

Yes, I know they’re fellow Federal employees. But, and this is a big but, they’re only quasi-Federal employees. And they lose shit. ALL THE FUCKIN’ TIME. So, you might actually receive the (registered mail) ticket…right after a cop hauls you in on the bench warrant.

4) Computers. Wi-Fi. Infrared. Servo-mechanical I/O stuff. Fog. Rain. Blinding heat. Bird shit. Morons with dumdum guns that damage the units. In short, faulty readings. Who you gonna call?

No one, that’s who. You’re hosed, eh?

If you can’t call anyone, perhaps you could start mailing people. I might (just as a hypothetical example, you understand) mail a letter upon receiving an erroneous ticket. I might mail this letter to the Chief of Police of the KCPD, the Director of Traffic Engineering, the Director of Public Safety, and the City Clerk. The requested information is within my right to obtain as part of my defense and the City would have an obligation to produce the information.

Here’s what I might pen:

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TO: The City of Kansas City Chief of Police
The City of Kansas City Director of Traffic Engineering
The City of Kansas City Director of Public Safety
City Clerk, The City of Kansas City
FROM: Owner of { make, model year }

Dear Directors and City Clerk,

I am requesting the following records and/or materials, all of which pertain to The City of Kansas City’s red light camera systems.

A. The original contract between your agency and its red light camera vendor, with all attachments or exhibits. All updates, amendments, extensions, renewals, or revisions thereto.

B. For each “intersection approach” or “approach” (defined as a red light camera or cameras monitoring any or all lanes of traffic entering an intersection from a single compass direction) within your jurisdiction, the monthly (or if ‘monthly’ not available, other periodic) tabulation or tally of citations recorded, issued, discarded, and paid (fine collected), from the onset of the program to the present.

C. All invoices from said vendor to your agency, or other requests to pay vendor, with all attachments or exhibits thereto. Also, a list of all payments made to vendor, or if that is not available, for each payment made, a voucher, check stub, counterpart or other evidence of payment.

D(1). For red light camera installations within your jurisdiction, your “uniform guidelines for screening and issuing violations and for the processing and storage of confidential information…” as mentioned within your vehicle code. Or, an otherwise-entitled document(s) having the same subject.

D(2) The procedures to ensure compliance with those guidelines, or, an otherwise-entitled document(s) having the same subject.

D(3) Your guidelines for selection of locations of red light cameras, or, an otherwise-entitled document(s) having the same subject.

Please provide each record or material in (D) above in its original form or edition. Please also provide all updates, new editions, or revisions, with appropriate notation as to the record or material’s date.

E. A complete list of all red light camera citations dismissed within the last year.

F. All materials of any kind, created or dated January 1, 2007 to the present and relating to any intersection that presently is, or is to be, the site of photo enforcement, reflecting or discussing any of the following: traffic congestion there, corrective measures taken or needed to be taken there (including enforcement of traffic laws via either traditional methods or via photo enforcement), or other traffic-related problems there. please provide any material reflecting how said photo enforced intersection(s) ranked, in terms of safety or accidents, when compared to other, not necessarily photo-enforced, intersections in your jurisdiction.

Please also provide, for all intersections regardless of whether they are photo enforced, or not, any material reflecting jurisdiction-wide rankings in terms of safety or accidents.

G. The staff report, with any attachments, from any public hearing held on the red light camera system and all newspaper notices of said public hearing.

H. The signal timing charts for all intersections presently having red light camera installations (or where such an installation has been approved for construction), reflecting the present signal timing settings. Also, any previous versions of said charts reflecting different signal timing settings in use January 1, 2007 or thereafter. If for any said charts the revision or creation date would not be evident and clear from reading the requested photocopy, please add appropriate notations or attach a cover letter.

I. For each of the intersections described in (H) above (including those approved for construction), the radar speed survey(s) applicable to any portion, within 1/2 mile, of a three-intersecting street whose traffic is subject to photo enforcement. (This request excludes surveys of streets that are solely the completion place of photo enforced turning movements.) Said surveys should include both the current survey and any earlier version that was applicable or in effect anytime after January 1, 1999. Said surveys should cover both directions of travel at each surveyed location, and should include at a minimum, the field technician’s chart of individual driver’s speeds actually measured, and the traffic engineer’s discussion of the speed limit chosen.

J. Any other staff report (with any attachments) regarding red light cameras and which was presented to the City Council or city commissions or boards after January 1, 2007.

K. The first ten (10) citations issued for each approach during the month of ________ 2009, as well as the last ten (10) issued during that month for each approach. Confidential information that would identify the driver (’PII’ data) should be redacted, but direction of movement (straight through, left, right, eastbound, westbound, etc.) should be preserved.

Sincerely,
Nick Charles

Please note:

a.) This request is for copies of the above documents or materials, to be mailed to me. However, if any of these documents are available in electronic form, please email them to me at: nick AT willnotbetelevised.com.

b.) This request is for CERTIFIED copies of the above records or materials. If I wish to have you provide me my own copies of any said record(s) or materials, I will make that request at, or after, the time of inspection.

I might also write a second letter, said letter to be mailed to the City Attorney:

REQUEST FOR DISCOVERY

TO: The City of Kansas City
Mr./Mrs./Ms Whomever, Esq.
Office of the City Attorney
ATTN: Discovery Clerk
City Hall
Kansas City, yadda yadda, yadda

Re: Discovery Request
Citation No. _________________

To the Office of the City Attorney:

I represent myself in the above-referenced matter. I am hereby giving notice that I am requesting disclosure and production of the following materials and information within fifteen (15) days of the date of service of this request:

1. The names and addresses of all witnesses who may be called to testify against the defendant at the trial.

2. All statements regarding this case, whether written or oral, made by any potential witness in this case, whether or not the prosecution intends to call them at trial. The contents of any such oral statement must be disclosed only to the extent that they are not presently contained in police reports or citations given to the defendant, but the City must disclose all additions to, deletions from, denials, explanations and clarifications of such statements contained in the police reports and citations, including all tangible evidence which relates to this case, whether to not the persecution intends to introduce the evidence at trial.

3. All handwritten notes and/or case memorandums, if any, made by any agent or employee of the City’s red light camera contractor, regarding the officer’s, agent’s or employee’s conversations or interviews with witnesses and/or the defendant in the present case, or regarding his review of documents, citations and photographs, and written report based on those conversations, interviews, or review of said materials.

4. All reports of experts, police officers, service technicians, and investigators made in conjunction with the case involving the results of physical or mental examinations and/or scientific tests, including but not limited to the results of those who examined the photographs, registration records, and data collected in order to request that prosecution be initiated in this matter, together with the reports and results of those who examined the technology and made any such conclusions that the technology was calibrated and/or in proper working order.

5. Examination of any books, papers, documents, photographs, tangible objects or other physical evidence which the City intend to use in the trial or which were obtained or created in the investigation, initiation, or service of the case against the defendant (including proof of service, certificate of mailing, or other evidence of mailing). Copies of all exhibits, including any diagrams, charts, or system logs, the City intend to present at the trial. Defendant pro Se herein requests to make an appointment to view the original exhibits in advance of the trial. please also assure that if any provided photos were originally recorded “digitally”, the photos provided under this discovery are also in digital form.

6. Copies of all photos or videos taken of the defendant or of the vehicle he is alleged to have been driving, at or near the time of the alleged violation in this case. this request includes, but is not limited to, copies of the photographs allegedly taken during defendant’s alleged encroachment into the aforementioned intersection, and copies of the additional modified photo-enlargements depicting a close-up driver’s image and a close-up license plate photo. please assure that all copies of photographic material (still or video) are the same resolution as the originals, and that all copies of videos are the same length and “frame rate” (frames per second/FPS) as the originals. please also assure that is the original photos were “digital”, the copies provided are also in a digital form.

7. Examination of all original photographs, digital images, superimposed images, transparencies, slide, diagrams, motion pictures and/or video tapes, composites or likenesses shown to or reviewed by witnesses and prospective witnesses in this case for the purposes of establishing the identity of suspects in the crime charged against the defendant; and all reports concerning the display of such to said witnesses.

8. All laboratory, technician and other reports concerning the testing and examination of said physical evidence. this request includes the calibration and maintenance documents for the red light camera device(s) installed at the subject intersection (noted above), and the calibration and maintenance documents for the traffic signals at said intersection thereto. This request also specifically includes all documents pertaining to signal timing for all traffic signals at said intersection. This information should include copies of timing requirements, warrant requirements and specifications for all yellow light phases at aid intersection. it should also include copies of any changes or alterations in light phase duration since the installation of the traffic signal lights, including any changes in light phase duration since the installation of the automated enforcement system at said intersection.

9. Investigation, maintenance, and repair reports pertaining to this case or cases that allegedly occurred within one month before and one month after the alleged violation in this case, whether written or oral, by the office of the city attorney, the City’s police department, the City’s red light camera contractor, or any other investigators, technicians, subcontractors, or repair workers.

10.(a) A copy of the City’s guidelines for screening and issuing violations and for the processing and storage of confidential information and its procedures to ensure compliance with those guidelines.

10(b) A copy of the City’s guidelines for selection of location, as effective on the date of the alleged violation.

11. A copy of the signed and dated contract between the City and the camera contractor, as effective on the date of the alleged violation, including all attachments or “exhibits” thereto. All updates, amendments, extensions, renewals, or revisions thereto.

In additions, the defendant also requests the following information and materials favorable to the accused and material either to guilt or punishment (Brady v. Maryland (1963) 373 U.S. 83, 83S. Ct. 1194), or mandated by the United States Constitution.

12. Exculpatory evidence, i.e., any evidence, information, documents and other materials favorable to the defendant in the possession of the office of the city attorney, or of any police department involved in the investigation of the case against the defendant, or of any agency or person and available to the prosecution through the exercise of due diligence. This request item includes copies of the logs for the operation of the camera system during the hour before and the hour after the alleged violation.

13. The names and addresses and copies of the citations of all those individuals who have also been charged with the same violation arising at the same intersection on the same date as the defendant.

Materials concerning the constitutionality of red light camera enforcement program:

14. The traffic accident history for each intersection with an installed red light camera unit in the city for the years 1998 through the present. This request includes summaries, accident reports, investigation reports and records, associated memoranda and statistical complications. this request pertains to all traffic accidents, regardless of cause.

Materials concerning the selective and discriminatory enforcement of the red light camera enforcement program:

15. And and all records, notices, tickets, reports and/or photographs taken or issued by the red light camera program and which did not result in prosecution. This request includes any error logs delivered or required to be delivered to the operations manager (or other supervisor of said program) and further includes, but is not limited to, a failure to issue for any or all of the following reasons:

A. The driver could not be identified.

B. City/County/Government vehicle or employee.

C. Warning ticket issued.

16. The following is disclosed to you:

A. Names and addresses of witnesses (other than defendant) who will testify at trial:

() None

() The following:

B. Relevant unprivileged written or recorded statements of witnesses:

() None.

() See attached.

Defendant asks that this request be treated as a continuing request through the completion of the trial. Do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance of any kind. Thank you for your prompt attention regarding this matter.

Sincerely,
Nick Charles

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Of course, I would send the letters via registered mail with a return receipt.

It’s not that I believe the City would claim that they didn’t receive my missives, but…well, you know.

I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one here at WNBTv, our beautiful imaginary news organ. But my gut says the City has to give me a hearing within 90 days. I will arrange to be early to that hearing. And I will check in and proceed to give notice that I will only wait for 30 minutes after the scheduled hearing time, whereupon I will begin charging the City $200 per hour, plus attorney fees.

However…it may not get to that.

The nature of some of the documents will undoubtedly make the City queasy to release; some of that information might damage the red light camera program should it become public. For example, how the monitored intersections are chosen. Several other blogs and news outlets have publicly speculated that the city is most concerned with revenue and will choose/have chosen intersections based on income rather than traffic accident history.

Then there is the issue of the City employees. In other cities, very often the local government finds itself under legal assault – think class-action suit – from its own employees who get nailed by the cameras.

Additionally, the sheer volume of documents involved is daunting. And should every Joe and Jane Doe in Kansas City decide to take a similar approach…oh, my, that’s all I can say.

In fact, I can hear lawyers all across town either giggling or having conniption fits as word of this post slowly leaks out. Trust me on this; it may not make the news but it IS going to be argued about in the better law offices all day.

Maybe all week.

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Show 2 footnotes

  1. Granted, a more likely scenario is that Asta has borrowed the car to run up to QT and buy all their candy, but still, the point is the same.
  2. I expect that after a few rounds in court, however, Kansas City will eventually wordsmith the local ordinance such that it meets this stricter test instead of giving up the program entirely. Yes, it will mean reduced revenues for the city but – hey! The red light camera program isn’t really about money, right? It’s about keeping us safe…

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