Thursday, February 13, 2014

Salisbury Police Acknowledged Some Calibration Issues

After months of obstruction, the City of Salisbury acknowledged that some lapses in the calibration of their speed cameras had in fact taken place, according to a report on WMDT:
Annual calibration reports for the city's cameras were recently released after public information requests from several watchdog groups. In those reports, it was revealed that certifications for two cameras had lapsed. They expired in December 2012, and weren't renewed until January 2013. It ended up being a 34 day span. 
"All of the citations that were issued in that span were either voided or the people were refunded their money," Barkley said. "But, just because it lapsed, doesn't mean it wasn't accurate." 
The error is not completely unheard of. Brekford also runs the programs in Greenbelt and Hagerstown, where hundreds of citations were also refunded or voided because of the same situation. 
"Some of those issues with the other jurisdictions, I can't tell you it's all Brekford, I don't know," Barkley said. 
He adds the oversight reinforces the need for the local jurisdictions to run their programs, and not the vendors. 
Salisbury had initially told the Maryland Drivers Alliance that they don't keep calibration records on file, but that their vendor had them... even though a city official is supposed to sign daily logs by law.  Brekford delayed the Public Information Act request for a month, and then demanded and excessive fee of to see the records. Then a narrower Public Information Act request made by another MDA member was obstructed for three months.  Eventually some documents were provided in response to a request by the Washington Times, which showed significant calibration lapses, and most requested daily setup logs were not produced.  It also turned out that the number of records Brekford claimed as the basis for their excessive fee in our initial request was greatly exaggerated, if the all of the documents even existed at all.

The city has since posted CURRENT calibration certificates, BUT NOT ONE'S FROM PRIOR YEARS, on their website.  Because of this they did not post the documents from the first year, when the certificates had been issued by the manufacturer rather than by an "independent calibration lab" as the law states, were not posted.

Also, the city's response addressed the annual calibration certificate lapses, but it did not explain the reason why many of the DAILY setup logs we asked for did not exist.  The daily setup logs for the city are not shown on the police website (which are required to be kept on file under state law).  As such it has not been confirmed that all the many days in 2013 which we have not requested daily setup logs for actually had the required tests and documentation.  Our request had included daily setup logs, and none were provided.  The Washington Times had requested 18 specific daily logs, and only four of those had been produced.  Even some of those had defects such as missing signatures.

The city still denies the cameras were inaccurate, however some motorists have asserted they were not driving the speeds shown on citations.

Speed cameras have come under increasing scrutiny since the leaking of a secret audit of Baltimore City which found that ten percent of citations were in fact errors.  Baltimore's program included speeding tickets issued to stationary vehicles, and that Baltimore's devices passed calibration tests even on the very day a stationary car was ticketed, proving that even a "properly calibrated" device can still be prone to errors.  In addition to calibration issues in Hagerstown and Greenbelt, the town of Morningside refused to produce calibration records, claiming that speed camera contractor Brekford "operates" their cameras for them.  Even now, months after we filed for judicial review in circuit court, Morningside has only produced a few pages of the many calibration documents and daily setup logs we asked for.