AMARILLO, (TX) - Local officials are trying to better police a not-so-well-known law on the road.
Recent clarification among city officials means police in Amarillo will now have to answer directly to the chief if they get a red light camera ticket -- meaning less work for the city, but likely more for the department.
Per Texas state law, a city -- including Amarillo -- cannot give a red light camera citation or fine to any emergency vehicle. Amarillo Police Chief Robert Taylor and Deputy City Manager Bob Cowell recently met to discuss the way in which they are now going to manage these would-be citations.
"What we're doing is we're making sure as we get those in for marked or unmarked vehicles, that there's a process by which we can actually make sure they get in front of the chiefs, either the fire or police chiefs, so they can take what actions necessary for discipline if it's appropriate," Cowell said.
"It's been an issue ongoing, and so I contacted the city manager and asked for a little change in policy to where these red light camera violations be handled within the police department completely," Taylor said.
This would indeed take some work off of the city, as it essentially allows them to skip the step of dismissal. With the confusion of unmarked vehicles, Cowell says this new form of managing the citations would make operations much easier.
"What makes it confusing is that when it's an unmarked vehicle that goes through, of course the company has no way of knowing that was a police vehicle, so we would get that in the form of a citation and ultimately that would have to be dismissed for the citation purpose, and then they'd go through the standard process of trying to determine whether they need to take any other action," says Cowell. "What this will do is let us make all those decisions without having to go through the hurdle of the dismissal."
But officers who get these citations don't get off scot-free. Taylor tells us a full investigation is conducted to ensure the right action is taken.
"I think it just brings clarity to what we can do when an officer runs one of these red light cameras. If they are justified, then there's not going to be any action taken. But if they are not, we are going to be looking at disciplinary action."