'Zoned out' photo radar op 'actively monitored' before firing: city
EDMONTON -- The City of Edmonton has fired a photo radar operator, who was seemingly caught sleeping on the job in October, after monitoring her for weeks.
The dismissal was handed down Dec. 27 after a weeks-long investigation by the city’s traffic safety department, which found the peace officer had failed “to make adequate observations” at her enforcement site.
Jack Shultz, organizer of the anti-photo radar group Edmonton Cash Cows, claims he found her sleeping in an unmarked truck near 159 Street and 104 Avenue on Oct. 17.
He had headed to the location, near Britannia School in Edmonton’s west end, after being tipped off.
“I drove down the block and turned around and I faced her eastbound about 150 metres away. And with my military binoculars I watched her for over five minutes and seen (sic) absolutely no body movement whatsoever,” he recalled.
He says he got out of his vehicle minutes later and approached the photo radar truck, recording all the while on his cell phone.
“For about a minute there I stood. There was no movement, so finally I pounded on the window and startled her,” Shultz said.
In the video he can be heard saying: “Making sure you’re not having a medical condition. Seems like you’re sleeping there, ma’am.”
Shultz said, “She tried denying that she was sleeping and I told her, ‘Listen, you’ve already been caught so there’s no sense continuing on this.’”
The video cuts out shortly after.
Photo radar contractor fired after investigation
Shultz filed a complaint with the city, prompting the investigation into the contracted peace officer’s behaviour.
Correspondence from the city says the worker reported being “zoned out” on Oct. 17.
“These peace officers swear under oath in court that they see these violations being committed. Well, I mean, that’s pretty hard to do with your eyes closed,” Shultz commented.
The city said the woman was let go “for reasons which are unrelated to this code of conduct complaint.”
“As a result of this investigation, no photo-enforcement tickets from that Peace Officer were issued or mailed to drivers for that entire shift on October 17,” reads a statement from the City of Edmonton.
Shultz told CTV News Edmonton he’s uncertain it’s a coincidence she was fired the same day the investigation ended. He called on the city to reveal the reasons for her firing, in case tickets issued by her after Oct. 17 also deserved to be rescinded.
However, the city said “processes were established to confirm that this Peace Officer was actively monitoring traffic when working subsequent shifts.
“Therefore, tickets issued after October 17 are confirmed to be valid, issued and mailed to drivers.”
Provincial freeze on new photo radar locations in effect
Shultz said he will continue pushing for transparency regarding photo radar enforcement, and advocates the work be done by Edmonton police once again.
“They see these crimes being committed, they film these crimes being committed, but yet they let the crimes continue for up to 10 days while a guy gets a ticket in the mail,” Shultz said.
“They’re placing revenue ahead of the safety of our loved ones.”
The city called photo enforcement an important aspect of Vision Zero, a goal of seeing zero fatalities and serious injuries from crashes.
A 2019 report found Alberta is among the provinces that most intensely uses automated traffic enforcement (ATE), with a decrease in collision rates equal to that in other jurisdictions.
A provincial freeze started Dec. 1 on new photo radar devices and locations while Alberta reviews ATE use.
Photo radar revenue is returned to the City of Edmonton, and partially funds traffic safety programs. In 2018, revenue was counted at $22 million.
With a report from CTV News Edmonton’s Dan Grummett