By Paul Brennan | Iowa Watchdog
DES MOINES, Iowa — The Sioux City Police Department’s attempt to squeeze every dollar out of the city’s speed cameras may cause it to lose access to important information on a national law enforcement database.
The controversial mobile speed cameras on Interstate 29 inspired a new law in neighboring South Dakota, which prohibits the state from providing information that could be used “to impose or collect a civil fine that results from an alleged violation captured by a red light camera or speed camera.”
After the law took effect July 1, Redflex, the company that operates the speed cameras and collects fines for Sioux City, was immediately blocked from getting the information needed to issue citations to owners of South Dakota cars the cameras catch.
Rather than give up on collecting those fines, the Sioux City Police Department started using its access to the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System to get Redflex vehicle registration information for South Dakota cars.
“They’re running the risk of getting cut off from all of South Dakota’s information on NLETS,” South Dakota State Sen. Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes, told Iowa Watchdog.
NLETS is a national database that allows law enforcement agencies to share information ranging “from motor vehicle and drivers’ data… to state criminal history records.”
Because of the way NLETS is structured, South Dakota would not be able to just deny SCPD access to information to issue speed camera citations. To stop SCPD from getting the information it would have to deny SCPD access to all of South Dakota’s information on NLETS.
“That could happen. It’s what the law calls for,” Lederman, the law’s author, explained. “But any enforcement action is up to the governor.”
Iowa Watchdog contacted South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s office to learn what actions are being contemplated, but has received no reply.
Lederman isn’t surprised Sioux City is doing whatever it can to get around South Dakota’s law.
“This is about money. The money from the cameras is very important to them,” he said.
Last year, the I-29 cameras pumped $4.5 million into Sioux City’s general budget.
But SCPD spokesman Lt. Mike Kirkpatrick rejects the idea the money the cameras generate is important.
“We have nothing to do with the money side of it,” Kirkpatrick told Iowa Watchdog. He insisted the department’s actions are all about enforcing the law and keeping motorists safe.
Kirkpatrick declined to comment on the conflict between the department’s enforcement efforts and South Dakota law.
“It’s all in flux right now. We have attorneys determining how we’ll move on. It’s subject to change as we work our way through this,” Kirkpatrick said.
For the moment, the department will continue to access NLETS to provide Redflex information on South Dakotans.
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