Who is issuing your speeding tickets?
Saturday, October 30, 2010
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Some of Houston's top cops are giving their confessions to us. You may have gotten a speeding ticket from officers who weren't properly trained using radar that wasn't checked to make sure it was reading your speed right.Thousands of speeding tickets may not be worth the paper on which they're written. We'll show you why and get the DA's office involved. "They fly down this roadway," Deputy Jennifer Kutak said. When cars speed down Clay Road, Kutak is waiting. "We've stopped several vehicles for 95 miles an hour," she said. Kutak's laser has been properly tested for accuracy, and she is certified to use it. "You want to know that the guy who's issuing the citation -- or the lady -- knows what they are doing," Harris County Pct. 5 Chief Deputy J.J. Laine said. You'd expect Precinct 5 to have tough standards. No Harris County Constable's Office handed out more speeding tickets last year; they've issued 21,000 of them. But now we're the ones saying "gotcha!" We discovered a full one-third of Precinct 5 deputies were not even certified in the use of radar. "Yes, it was shocking," Harris County Pct. 5 Constable Phil Camus said. What about the equipment being used to justify hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of those speeding tickets? "Within a week of your request, all Precinct 5 radar units were removed from service and send to manufacturer -- all of them," Laine said. There's a good reason. "Some of the units had not been certified in a number of years, anywhere from two, three, five -- 10," Laine said. Gotcha! "Why does it take media to get people who are trained in traffic enforcement to do the right thing?" 13 Undercover asked Harris County Pct. 4 Constable Ron Hickman. "It's because we wanted a chance to come see ya," he replied. It's ecause we knew some Precinct 4 deputies had written more than 100 speeding tickets without the necessary training. Tuning forks to test the radars were missing. "It tells me if they don't have them, they can't test them for accuracy," Speed Measurement Laboratories President Carl Fors said. And then there's little federal standard about checking to make sure those radar guns have been certified for use at least every three years. Precinct 4 had radars that have never been rechecked for accuracy. "That's a fair and true statement?" we asked Hickman. "It's certainly possible," he replied. Gotcha! "We feel it's prudent if an officer doesn't (have) or can't find his certificate just to hold off issuing radar-initiating kinds of speeding tickets," Hickman said. "Why don't we go back and find out who got tickets from officers using equipment that had not been tested and dismiss it or give them their money back?" 13 Undercover asked Hickman. "Well it's certainly something I think we can visit with the district attorney's office and seek their guidance on that," he replied. "If they suggested that was appropriate course of action, then I wouldn't disagree with them." "Whatever equipment we're using to eventually punish someone, then it's got to be up to some standard. I mean, it's got to be," Harris County Pct. 6 Constable Victor Trevino said. "People have been treated unfairly by this system, don't you agree?" 13 Undercover asked Harris County First Assistant District Attorney Jim Leitner. "Well, they may have been," he replied. If you've already paid your ticket or cut a deal with the judge, you're out of luck, but if you have a ticket you want to fight, you still have a chance. "We are going to look at all those extremely close," Leitner said. Authorities will check to see if the radar gun was tested, the cop trained, and all because we said "gotcha!" "This investigation is a good thing," Leitner said. Precinct 5 writes more speeding tickets than any other constable's office, but the new radar policy inspired by 13 Undercover's investigation may be the toughest in town. "Thank you for bringing this to our attention," Laine said. "It was needed, and you got it done." On Sunday, we'll show you the places in the city of Houston where the cops are giving the most tickets. Is it about traffic safety or about money?
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13 undercover, wayne dolcefino
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