Photo enforcement night to lift the veil on program

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by Colin Smith

An upcoming event will give Morinville residents an opportunity to learn about photo radar as well as find out more about what the Town’s peace officers do.

The Photo Enforcement Public Education Night takes place Wednesday, Sept. 16 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the parking lot of the Morinville Community Cultural Centre.

The Morinville Peace Officer Unit will also be on site and staff will be available to answer questions.

“This is a hands-on opportunity to see the equipment in place,” said David Schaefer, Director of Community and Protective Services. “That’s why the event is being held outdoors. Rather than talking about it, people will be look in the units to see how they work. Not only photo enforcement but laser units.”

The public may also get a chance to see other types of traffic law enforcement technology, including stop sign vans that capture video of vehicles going through stop signs.

Schaefer said the event won’t be a place to discuss the rationale for or the desirability of photo radar.

“That ‘s already been done and the community has made its decision,” he stated, referring to the vote in favour of keeping photo radar that followed a petition campaign against it in 2013.

Officer-manned speed enforcement has its own set of opportunities and challenges when it comes to enforcing community safety laws, pointed out William Norton, Morinville’s Supervisor of Enforcement Services.

“We hope to showcase some of the equipment we utilize on a daily basis and to show the range or technology that is used in enforcement,” he said. “This public education night creates the opportunity for community members to ask questions and for us to perhaps debunk any myths that exist about using the technology available to us to enforce traffic laws.”

Among those who have questions they want to see answered are Linda Lyons and Cliff Haryett, the couple who originally spearheaded the petition to drop photo radar use.

“We want a clear and concise understanding of the procedures and operations of the current contractor, Information Technology Services (ITS), including their capability, and limitations of both equipment and manpower,” Lyons stated.

She said they would be asking questions to help them become knowledgeable and informed on the operations of photo radar.

They hope to find out about officer training and testing, camera angle calibration, publicity of data, and responsibility for the overall management of the contract, among other issues.

Rick Price, another critic of photo enforcement in Morinville, is seeking information about items, including operation site selection, the officer training course syllabus, optimal operating distances and equipment limitations.

“As we are all well aware, there is speculation as to some of the practices used by ITS,” Price said.

Schaefer noted that the public education night will provide “a unique opportunity to see a component of what a peace officer is doing.”

It will give the career-minded with a chance to explore the expanding field of law enforcement and talk about employment opportunities.

“Now we have peace officers and sheriffs in addition to traditional police officers,” he said. “[We] also have private services that provide support. It’s a good career.”

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