Chief: Red light tickets for officers wrongly dismissed

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- In the wake of a six-month WUSA 9 red light camera investigation, DC police are now changing their story and their policy controlling how officers get out of paying their own tickets.

"Chief Lanier has mandated that any requests for dismissals of tickets be sent to the Executive Office of the Chief of Police for review," the agency said in a written statement. "All requests must have an explanation and appropriate signatures."

Originally, Metropolitan Police Department officials denied interview requests and issued a statement explaining the dismissed officers' tickets uncovered in the WUSA9 investigation as justified because they were on "valid police business."

Despite the findings, officials say officers can't be disciplined because regulations prohibit actions against police for wrongdoing beyond 90-days.

But for that, Lanier said she would take action against those involved.

"If it was in the 90 days, yes, he could be disciplined for policy violation," Lanier said. "Absolutely."

The infractions identified by WUSA9 were thrown out in 2012 and 2013.

This month, Chief Cathy Lanier watched each videotaped red light ticket obtained by WUSA9 and upon review, acknowledged officers broke laws and at least one supervisor assisted in improper ticket dismissal requests.

"I'm wondering why a supervisor would send this through and ask for it to be waived," Lanier said watching one video. "It shouldn't' have been approved."

The video shows a patrol car, without slowing or activating emergency equipment, running the red light and making a right from the center lane.

Records show no proof of an emergency or a required supervisor's approval.

Although, while reviewing the videos, Chief Lanier identified six of the 14 tickets obtained by WUSA9 as "unjustified," she repeatedly referred to the six as "two or three."

"Given I have 1,600 cars, 6.2 million miles to think two or three in a three-year period have gotten through with wrong justification, I could be feeling a lot worse," Lanier said. "Two or three that got through that didn't follow the policy, that's going to happen."

By law, in the District, to avoid tickets, police officers must be "responding to an emergency call" and sound an "audible signal,"

Although the video supplied to WUSA9 does not include audio, the Chief says she gives officers the benefit of the doubt.

"It's kind of instinct," Lanier said. Whenever you're coming to an intersection, you're hitting the air horn."

Lanier found more than half of the cases obtained by WUSA9 as being justified in being dismissed.

"Responding to assault with a deadly weapon," Lanier said describing one officer's call when he ran the red light.

Lanier ruled it justifiable saying it shows the unmarked car using emergency equipment.

"See them, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth," Lanier said pointing to the police car. "That's the way the lights work."

The Chief justified another ticket to the same car with the same driver ten months later.

In cases she says were not justified she said her patrol units put pedestrians and other drivers at risk.

"He almost hits that car," Lanier said about a marked unit that hit its brakes to avoid the car that had the right-of-way. "He's got no emergency equipment activated. There's just no justification for this whatsoever."

The Chief disputes Department of Motor Vehicle records that indicate MPD requested that two tickets be dismissed.

"We have the proof that the officer paid the ticket," Lanier said. "I don't see any documentation."

According to an email from DMV officials to WUSA9, "Records show that MPD requested both tickets in question be dismissed on December 17, 2012."

"There's no request from us here so it's a mistake," Lanier said. "Human beings make mistakes. The officers paid the ticket."

DMV officials say one of the tickets was paid by an officer after our original investigation aired and another before our investigation.

According to DMV, "On June 18, 2014, MPD requested that DC DMV cancel the void for ticket so that it could be paid by the MPD employee who received it." That was a month after our first investigation aired. The DMV says that other ticket on our list was paid January 21, 2013. Before our investigation.

Lanier acknowledged, for this interview, she looked only at whether she believed officers violated district traffic laws –

"I'm not saying there wouldn't' be a policy violation," Lanier said." But, in terms of the law, I think this would be justified."

MPD policy is different than DC traffic laws. The police department's policy requires police to "open both front windows" and to "stop before entering the intersection when facing a red signal," all "with emergency warning devices activated."

None of the 14 cases we reviewed met that standard.

"We look at them separately," Lanier said. "If you violate law you pay the fine. If you violate policy then we do an internal investigation and you are eligible for discipline.

"Law and policy is different here, but these tickets are issued for the law."


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment