Dear Chief Weitzel:
You are a vocal advocate on issues of local, statewide and even national policing and your Twitter handle routinely features posts encouraging followers to remember fallen officers and to respect and celebrate police.
Given that public profile, I wonder if you are at all concerned about the effect red-light cameras — and your support for them in Riverside — might have on public support for your department. What defensible public safety interest can you make on behalf of naked policing for profit?
Slow-rolling right-hand turns are not and have never been a public safety hazard — no credible traffic safety expert will make the claim — and monetizing these petty infractions under the guise of law enforcement is a cynical abuse of policing powers. It’s a smaller scale but no less pernicious practice than the discredited highway interdiction programs that turned cops into badge-wearing brigands. Are you cops or robbers?
I also wonder if you are at all concerned that the private red-light camera company Riverside has partnered with operates under an opaque corporate structure that allows for undisclosed ownership, or that company officials have flat-out lied to the press in the past about their origins. Riverside will now be splitting profits with this company, SafeSpeed LLC, 60/40 if your deal is like other neighboring communities, including my own.
You are an unusually high-profile small-town police chief and you have a platform for promoting real best-practices in local policing. In this case, you’ve instead chosen to endorse red-light cameras and bad-faith policing for profit. Whatever progressive policing initiatives lie ahead for the Riverside PD will be colored by this ugly practice.
Ed. note: Brett McNeil writes an occasional nature column for the Landmark and was the co-author of a 2017 investigative series published by the paper about red light cameras on Harlem Avenue.