Crime

Wake DA reviewing traffic tickets after problems with speed guns

A Raleigh police officer uses a radar gun to check vehicle speeds in this file photo. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman is reviewing dozens of pending traffic citations after Raleigh police notified her of problems with the radar guns used to detect speed in those cases.
A Raleigh police officer uses a radar gun to check vehicle speeds in this file photo. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman is reviewing dozens of pending traffic citations after Raleigh police notified her of problems with the radar guns used to detect speed in those cases. 2003 News & Observer file photo

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman is reviewing dozens of pending traffic citations after Raleigh police notified her of problems with the radar guns used to detect speed in those cases.

Freeman said her immediate focus is on 60 to 70 pending cases in which citations were issued by officers using radar machines that were not in compliance with annual certification requirements.

The 10 radar guns and one laser speed gun have since been tested for recertification, according to police spokesman Jim Sughrue, and none showed inaccurate results.

But Freeman said she could not introduce the speed gun data as evidence and that the cases might prove difficult in court unless the officers had other supporting evidence for the citations, such as clocking the speed by trailing the motorist.

Freeman plans to look at each case individually before deciding whether a dismissal is warranted.

Sughrue said Tuesday the issue came to light after an officer noticed that a speed gun had not been tested and issued a new certification as it should have been.

That prompted a review of some 400 speed guns, Sughrue said, and from that audit 11 were found to be out of compliance with the testing process required by state law.

Sughrue said he could not publicly identify the law enforcement officers who had used the speed guns that were out of compliance because they and their supervisors face possible personnel actions.

Ultimately, the review found that approximately 300 tickets had been issued at stops made in patrol cars with the 11 speed guns in question.

Most of those cases have been closed.

“Those that have been resolved were resolved at reduced speeds it appears from our review,” Freeman said. “Officers also make independent determinations of speed and in many cases pace vehicles in addition to deploying a radar.”

Sughrue said the tickets in question were issued in three parts of the city – the downtown district, the southeast district and the north district, which stretches from Capital Boulevard to the Creedmoor Road area.

After the incident, which showed some guns were out of compliance from anywhere to several weeks to almost a year, Sughrue said the Raleigh Police Department took steps with the hopes of preventing such a problem in the future.

Instead of relying on the patrol officers and their supervisors to keep up with recertification schedules, the police unit that’s responsible for keeping records will play a larger role. The department also plans to issue tags to go on the speed guns that make it easier to see the date the equipment was last tested or needs to be tested.

In addition to alerting the district attorney about the problem, Sughrue said the Raleigh department also notified the N.C. Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission, a 34-member state organization that establishes minimum employment, training and retention standards for law enforcement officers.

“This was an administrative issue,” Sughrue said. “Steps have been taken to make a fix to keep it from happening again.”

Anne Blythe: 919-836-4948, @AnneBlythe1

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