Letters to the Editor

City ignores malfunctions in photo enforcement | Letters

Photo enforcement cameras at South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South in Federal Way. - Mirror file photo
Photo enforcement cameras at South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South in Federal Way.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

When the city first announced they were going to be installing photo enforcement systems (speed cameras) in the school zones, I thought it was a great idea.

Using an automated system would allow our officers to chase “bad guys” instead of writing speeding tickets.

However, after having extensively studied the city’s operation of this system, including multiple public record requests, discussions with engineers, multiple discussions with the police chief and spending time in our municipal court last week, I am sadly left with only one conclusion: this system is being used unethically, if not fraudulently, in an attempt to generate revenue for the city.

I hope my conclusion is wrong and that the city can offer another explanation.

As early as February 2011, the mayor, police chief and city attorney were notified by multiple citizens that the photo enforcement system was malfunctioning, primarily by issuing tickets when the yellow school-zone lights were not flashing.

After weeks of denying that any malfunction was possible, Federal Way police began reporting that the system was indeed malfunctioning. In an effort to keep these malfunctions out of the public eye, the police chief and city attorney agreed to dismiss multiple tickets without requiring a court appearance.

However, the city refused to proactively contact other drivers who may have been cited in error. Since that time, the city has only made token improvements to the system, none of which included any evidence that the yellow lights were indeed flashing when a ticket was issued.

Through a series of public record requests, I have learned that the city does not keep records regarding the maintenance or operation of the flashing yellow lights. Despite the claims being made on each citation, the city was unable to provide documentation showing that the yellow lights must be flashing before tickets can be issued.

Last Friday as I sat through an hour of traffic court, I was shocked to discover that the pro-tem (non-elected) judge didn’t even care if the yellow lights were flashing when the infraction was issued.

I was further shocked when the police officer I subpoenaed to testify regarding my infraction did not appear (as such my ticket was dismissed). The judge only smirked when I asked what would happen if I had failed to appear for a subpoena.

I respectfully request that the mayor, police chief and city attorney publicly address why they have ignored system malfunctions, why they allowed a police officer to fail to appear when subpoenaed, and most importantly, why they refuse to make simple improvements that would record if the yellow lights are indeed flashing when a citation is being issued.

Sadly, I fear that the city will continue to turn a blind eye toward what appears to be an intentional abuse of her citizens.

I will gladly provide full documentation to anyone who is interested.

Matthew Jarvis, Federal Way


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