New AG opinion: Cities not violating TN traffic camera law

Expanding on an opinion released in July, the Tennessee attorney general says cities that contract with red-light camera companies are not violating state law, reports the News Sentinel.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery, in his opinion Monday, said the state’s statute that requires a certified police officer determine whether laws were broken does not mean that others cannot examine video images. (Note: Full opinion HERE.)

“Vendors engaging in sorting or pre-screening of the video footage are not making a determination that a violation has occurred,” Slatery wrote. “Rather, they are simply ensuring that the law enforcement officers who make those determinations do so efficiently by reviewing only usable information.”

He concluded: “In short, the statute does not prevent a city from contracting with a private vendor to sort or screen the video information for footage that cannot form the basis for a citation.”

Knoxville earlier this month opted to extend its current red-light camera contract with Lasercraft Inc. for 60 days to give city staff time to study Slatery’s first ruling and wait for subsequent opinions.

…Police Chief David Rausch, following an Aug. 2 City Council meeting when the contract extension was approved, said the companies Knoxville contracts with look only “at raw video to make sure the only video we get is video that could possibly contain a violation.”

“The violation is still determined by the officer who reviews that video,” he said.

State Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, a longtime critic of traffic cameras who set fire to his own citation in May in a video posted to Facebook, had praised Slatery’s previous opinion and called for a class-action lawsuit.

In that opinion, issued July 6, Slatery determined the employees of traffic camera companies could not review video from the cameras and determine whether a violation had occurred before sending footage to law enforcement.

With the lingering confusion among local governments, state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, asked the attorney general to answer the more specific question of whether the state law permits cities to contract with vendors to screen video for quality.

The two opinions are not contrary, Slatery wrote, but answered separate questions.