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House rejects Senate amendment to school zone photo radar bill

A bill amended by the Oregon Senate to allow the city of Fairview to operate photo radar in school zones while school is in session was refused by the state House of Representatives.

Carried by Rep. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale, originally House Bill 3438 would allow any Oregon city to operate photo radar in a school zone while school is in session.

Speeders caught on camera would be subject to a police officer’s review before a ticket is issued in the mail.

The House passed the bill 44-16 on April 23, but when it got to the Senate, the Committee on Business and Transportation amended the bill to recommend a pilot program for Fairview, instead of permitting the option for photo radar in all cities.

On June 5, the Senate voted 19-11 to pass the amended House bill, but five days later, the House refused to agree with the Senate’s amendments.

Now the bill will go back to the drawing table two weeks before a June 28 deadline, said Robert Phillips, senior legislative aide to Gorsek.

Right now, only 10 Oregon cities are legally permitted to operate photo radar anywhere in their cities, including Albany, Beaverton, Bend, Eugene, Gladstone, Medford, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Portland and Tigard.

Fairview Police Chief Ken Johnson, immediate past president of the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police, first approached Gorsek with the idea for the bill.

Johnson said the bill would take advantage of technology advancements in policing.

He said photo radar in school zones would free up officers, including the 14 officers in Fairview, instead of restricting them to policing school zones, which he said requires an average of two officers at a time.

“The city of Fairview has five schools,” Johnson said. “We can’t cover all of the school zones.”

He said the goal of the bill is “helping us keep our children safe.”

As the chief sponsor of the bill, Gorsek said, “The idea is not to try and generate more revenue or take away officer discretion. The main thing is we want our kids to be safe, coming to or from school, or out in front of school during schools hours.”

Rep. Greg Matthews, D-Gresham, a former police and traffic officer, voted against the original bill.

Calling it “a bad step for policing,” Matthews said photo radar completely removes the discretion an officer uses when pulling someone over for a speeding violation.

He said many factors can contribute to a speeding violation that a photo radar cannot detect, but that an officer would learn through conversation with the driver as the infraction occurs.

For example, he said, if someone is late driving his daughter to school and decides to speed, an officer has the opportunity to talk with that person and help deter him from the same behavior in the future.

With photo radar, that human element — which he said leads to greater community awareness — is gone.

While Matthews understands the impact on a budget to have an officer dedicated to traffic, he counters, “How effective is it when a person receiving the infraction isn’t aware of it until two weeks later?”

Further, he said, to run radar in a school zone between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. even when no children are present “becomes about generating revenue, not deterring traffic,” Matthews said.




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