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Des Moines Police Chief Judy Bradshaw was wrong to submit a proposal to the city council to enforce stop light and speeding ordinances with automated systems. And the council was wrong to approve it.

Last month the police department recommended this amendment to its schedule of fees. The change provided for civil penalties that will be imposed for traffic violations captured with the automated systems. In other words, cops don’t have to pull you over for you to get a ticket; video cameras will now do it for them.

The police department says this is part of an effort to continue “to identify methods to improve safety.” They didn’t mention that it will also drive revenue with fines from $65 to $80 plus $2 per mph in excess of 21 mph over.

We didn’t realize that speeding had become such a growing problem. Yes, it is against the law, and, yes, there are penalties for these infractions when you get caught. Most all of us have had the opportunity to receive a few. Try driving the speed limit on I-235 any time of day and count how many times you are passed in that short stretch. It doesn’t take a mathematician to calculate how much revenue this will place in the city coffers.

The police department claims the systems will not have a financial cost to taxpayers, as the approved vendor will be responsible for all costs associated with the equipment.

The simple truth is that slower speeds cause accidents, too. And too often “solutions” like these create more problems. The effectiveness of automated systems has been questionable in Clive, and it will be disastrous in Des Moines. At a time when Des Moines is competing even more with the suburbs, mailing tickets to visitors won’t be viewed as a friendly invitation to come back.

Furthermore, be careful who you let drive your vehicle, as this new ordinance will allow for a civil citation to be issued to the vehicle’s owner, and not necessarily the vehicle’s driver.

The only good we could find in this is that the violations captured by the electronic devices will not reported to the Iowa Department of Transportation and will not appear on individual driving records. But the fines still stink, and so does this effort to raise revenue for the city.

And there’s nothing funny about that. CV

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