The Ohio House wants to bar cities from using traffic cameras to catch speeders and drivers running red lights. State senators have been looking to craft something less restrictive. They still have not found a reasonable approach.
The latest proposal to emerge from the Senate would allow the cameras — as long as a police officer sits with each camera posted at an intersection or along a road. No surprise that cities have objected. This requirement works against a key purpose: deploying resources more efficiently and productively, technology freeing police officers to better use their time and skills.
Senate proponents argue that the proposal avoids an outright ban. True. They also contend that if cities view the cameras as important to public safety, they will take the necessary steps to make sure police officers are deployed with them. What they don’t say is that lawmakers, and the governor, have made things difficult for cities, slashing the Local Government Fund, diminishing the resources available for public safety.
Now the Statehouse wants to manage police departments, too?
Traffic cameras work well. They help enforce state law. They improve traffic safety. They serve as a “force multiplier,” making police officers available for other duties. You would think that state lawmakers would applaud their use.
What critics of the cameras insist is that local governments are interested in reaping big revenue. If that is the case, local voters can hold officials accountable at the polls. If state lawmakers really want to get involved, they would do well to take the cue of state Sen. Kevin Bacon. He proposes that cities have the option of using the cameras under clear and reasonable statewide standards.