Police, city workers not getting fined for running red light cameras

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by Nick Ochsner, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on February 26, 2014 at 6:35 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 27 at 2:28 PM

VIRGINIA BEACH- Running a red light camera at intersections around Hampton Roads normally means a you'll get a fine of up to $50 in the mail.

But a 13News Now investigation has found that's not the case for all area drivers. City employees, including police officers, who were caught running red lights by cameras in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Newport News do not have to pay the fine for breaking the law.

Our investigation requested information for all of the red light camera violations for the second half of 2013 from the cities of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Newport News. Those three cities had fully operational cameras during that time period.

In Virginia Beach, six city employees were caught blowing through solid red lights. Two of those employees were police officers.

In Chesapeake, cameras snapped five city employees breaking the law, including two police officers and a sheriff's deputy.

Newport News refused to provide information in response to our request without us paying hundreds of dollars.

City administrators in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake point to a section of the state law permitting red light cameras that allow cities to discipline their employees caught running red lights instead of making them pay the fine.

"The code does allow for discipline very specifically and we have chosen to go the discipline route," said Chesapeake's Director of Human Resources, DL Mears.

Mears said the punishment an employee would face for being caught on camera running a red light could vary, based on a number of factors.

"It could be a written reprimand, it could be a suspension or a demotion or it could be a termination depending on the circumstances," she said.

Mears said her office and department heads take into account the employees' position when deciding a punishment, meaning law enforcement officers may face harsher consequences than other employees.

Officials in Virginia Beach would only tell us how their red light program works. However, when asked, they refused to explain how they discipline their employees who are caught running red lights.

Our investigation also uncovered four employees of other cities who were caught running red light cameras in city-owned vehicles in Virginia Beach. Employees of Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake were all caught running red light cameras in Virginia Beach.

A spokesman for the PhotoSafe program in Virginia Beach said the city does not issue tickets for red light violations for other city vehicles either. Instead, the spokesman said, the violation is forwarded to the respective city for administrative action.

But when we checked with those four cities, only one of them had actually received notice of the violation. The City of Norfolk said it received a violation from Virginia Beach in August. However spokesmen in Chesapeake, Suffolk and Portsmouth said they never received anything from Virginia Beach.

A spokesman for the Virginia Beach Police Department also refused to answer questions about why the out of town violations were never sent.

The City of Chesapeake said it fines employees of other cities who are caught running its red light cameras.

 

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