Few hate red light cameras more than I. I think that they are a sissy way to enforce laws (collect revenue) and that they do little to reduce accidents. For the record, I have never received a red light camera ticket - yet that does not diminish my hatred for them.
I may have found someone who hates them more than I. Patrick O'Donoghue was an engineer for Cal-Fire. O'Donoghue was operating a fire engine and responding to a call when he ran through a red light. Apparently, he knew that the intersection was monitored by a red light camera, so he flashed a thumbs-up signal to the camera as he busted the intersection. He reportedly used both hands to give the thumbs-up and was traveling at 60 mph when he did so. As a result of his actions, he was demoted from engineer to firefighter, a disciplinary action which he feels is extreme. He is currently appealing his demotion to the state personnel board.
The offense reportedly occurred in the City of Corona back in November of 2010, though I don't know which intersection. O'Donoghue was driving out of Riverside County Sta. #15, which is located in the City of Corona and protects unincorporated areas located just outside of the city limits.
I can't find where Cal-Fire was said specifically why O'Donoghue was demoted, but they apparently provided the Press - Enterprise a copy of their operating policy which addresses due regard for safety while operating emergency vehicles. Two hands not on the wheel, excessive speed and the hand gestures might fall under the due regard doctrine, but as this is a personnel issue, Cal-Fire isn't saying much.
O'Donoghue's attorney, David Givot said that O'Donoghue acknowledges using poor judgement in displaying the hand signals and driving through the red light at 60 mph. Givot argued at the personnel board hearing that the punishment was excessive.
The Press-Enterprise, our local rag, ran this story yesterday and also ran a poll on the matter. Readers were asked what punishment O'Donoghue deserved for displaying the thumbs-up gesture as he went through the red light. As of an hour ago, the results were:
Demotion - 26%
Reprimand - 42%
Suspension - 14%
No Punishment - 16%
Don't Know - 2%
The poll is deceiving as it does not address the speed at which O'Donoghue was traveling through the red light. Personally, I have no problem with the gesture, in fact a thumbs-up gesture is far more benign than the one I would have given.
The speed issue is another matter. Not knowing what intersection this occurred at or what conditions were present, makes it difficult for me to give an educated opinion on this - though 60 mph does seem excessive.
What I DO have a problem with is that Cal-Fire was even made aware of the event in the first place. If the offender had been a black and white for Riverside County Sheriff's Dept, the matter would have been closed when the photo was reviewed by Corona P.D.
I don't know for sure, but I suspect that a citation cannot be issued to an entity, so a phone call was made to the county Fire Dept, advising them of the event. I also suspect that this call was probably a result of City vs. County conflict or, worse yet, the continuing animosity of P.D. vs. F.D. I know a few cops from Corona, they are not big fans of their bastard child step-brothers on the big red (or white) trucks.
Regardless, O'Donoghue's demotion seems extreme to me. Perhaps a day or two off or a written reprimand would be more in order.
I would also advise company officers to monitor their engineer's driving habits and mentor them as needed. It might save everybody some grief in the future.
Click on the Press-Enterprise link for the full story, they did a good job with this. Take the survey as well. Let them know what you think.
Thanks for reading,