“I can tell you that citizens got tickets they didn’t deserve”
April 28, 2014
Police in a northern Dallas suburb have been unethically ticketing drivers citing higher speeds picked up by radar guns they know to be faulty, according to one former officer.
Aaron Smith, an ex-McKinney, Texas, police officer who served with the force for nine years, says his former department issued plenty of speeding tickets on spurious grounds, but that his multiple warnings concerning their defective equipment went long unheeded.
“I noticed as I was driving one of the Crown Vic’s back I started to see oncoming traffic coming at 120 miles an hour,” Smith told Dallas CBS affiliate KTVT.
The radars, he says, rely on a speed sensor cable that uses an algorithm to calculate the speed an on-coming driver is traveling when a patrol car is in motion, but Smith argues some of the department’s patrol cars were unable to do this because the wire was missing.
Smith, who has a background in engineering, wrote multiple emails to the department trying to get them to address the problem, however, the department denied there was an issue.
“McKinney police officials said radar guns don’t need the cable and explained that officers are trained to compensate for it,” reported KTVT, adding the department demoed a cordless detector to prove their point.
“I’ve spent 22 years in this career I would never allow faulty equipment in the field,” Assistant Chief of Police Joe Ellenburg testified to KTVT.
But the assistant chief also mentioned the department was in the process of spending $3,000 to outfit the rest of their cruisers with the recommended cable, an action Smith says is essentially an admission of wrong-doing on the department’s behalf.
“I can tell you that citizens got tickets they didn’t deserve,” Smith declared, when asked whether police had erroneously ticketed drivers. The department maintains that it has never, not once, not even for a second given anyone a speeding ticket without justification.
The claims are part of a wider pattern of problems that pushed Smith over the edge during his tenure with the department.
In June 2013, the McKinney City Council approved $277,589 to purchase new video equipment and software called WatchGuard when the department “was concerned about needing high definition video,” but the police department had already racked up a total of $415,000 in the past nine years purchasing and upgrading an incompatible Panasonic video system.
When Smith installed the new systems, he says McKinney Police Chief Joe Williams “threw a tantrum” and was upset with the way he had set it up.
“Everyone’s (in the police department) afraid of this man, so no one will speak up,” Smith told TownSquareBuzz.com. “They are so afraid that they will loose [sic] their job. If my name is attached to something, I’m either gonna do it right, or you can fire me in the process of doing it right. I was at the point of if you are gonna fire me, fire me.”
Furthermore, Chief Williams says the new WatchGuard software was needed by police to have the ability to redact things a judge would deem inadmissible, a “responsibility of the D.A.’s office, not the police department,” according to Smith.
Last month, police in McDonough, Georgia were banned from using radar and laser equipment after a news investigation uncovered officers were using speed detection devices on streets that were unapproved by the Department of Transportation. Will McKinney PD come clean and follow in their footsteps?
Watch: With advances in technology, the next officer to issue you a ticket could be a drone.