Robot Cops Threaten Liberty & Safety

Our good friend Patrick Bedard of Car & Driver has a excellent piece on the governmental sneaky tax: Robo-Cop.

This just in: A red-light camera on Broadway Street in Knoxville, Tennessee, has suffered fatal gunshot wounds. Three bullets struck the device, destroying the lens and rendering it inop. Clifford E. Clark III, 47, holed up in a nearby minivan, was arrested and charged with felony vandalism.

Not to put words in Clark’s mouth, but what I think he was trying to say with his .30-06 Ruger was that he had withdrawn his consent to be governed by robots. You may remember that our founding fathers had a very clear idea of the source of government legitimacy. The Declaration of Independence says that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The political theory here is that there is no moral authority to use state power unless the people say there is.

One guy expressing disapproval of a red-light camera won’t curb government zeal for robot surveillance, but it’s a start…

Let’s be clear about the tyranny here. This is not about running red lights. Camera enforcement is a revenuing scheme that depends on an end run around the fundamental American principle of innocent until proven guilty. The glassy-eyed accuser is a robot, and it’s not subject to cross examination. Moreover, it’s a robot employed by a for-profit business that makes its profits from guilty verdicts. It makes nothing on innocent verdicts. Such an obvious conflict of interest should bring out all the rifles…

But there is growing frustration. Consider the case of Tim Alstrom of Aberdeen, Washington, as reported in He opened an envelope last summer to find a demand for payment of $101. Nearby Seattle had convicted him of running a red light at 3:21 a.m. on June 29, citing camera evidence as proof. He was at home asleep at the time, and the car in the photo wasn’t his, but never mind. It gets worse. Seattle, like most camera jurisdictions, will dismiss a camera ticket under one condition only: The car owner has to rat out the actual driver, who must pay the $101.

Students: Test your knowledge. Red-light cameras are about (a) the money, (b) the money, (c) THE MONEY…

As good as it might be for safety, lengthening the yellow is bad for (a), (b), and (c) above. San Diego saw a $2 million increase in revenues in the first year after trimming its “grace period” to 0.1 second versus 0.3 to 0.5 before. In Dallas, 7 of the 10 highest revenue-raising cameras have yellows shorter than the minimum recommendation of the Texas Department of Transportation.

When the choice comes down to safety versus the money, safety doesn’t stand a chance.