Tues. 3:50 p.m.: Ohio city urges justices to reject traffic camera law

CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio’s chief justice raised questions today about a state law that restricts traffic camera use by requiring a police officer to be present.

John Musto, an attorney for the city of Dayton, said in arguments before the state Supreme Court that the law that took effect in 2015 improperly limits local control and undercuts camera enforcement that has made cities safer. Dayton and other cities say the law’s restrictions that mandate an officer’s presence, a three-year traffic study and other procedures make traffic cameras cost-prohibitive.

The state solicitor, Eric Murphy, countered that the law is within the legislature’s powers as a “statewide and comprehensive” way to regulate enforcement of traffic laws.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor questioned Murphy repeatedly, suggesting legislators responded to “the hue and cry” from residents who thought traffic cameras were unfair.

“You’ve got 15 police officers around the city and their only duty is to sit there and babysit a camera while violent crime is occurring in other aspects of the municipality, and that’s OK?” she asked.

Murphy called the law a good compromise on traffic cameras, which have drawn a lot of complaints about unfairness. He said the law makes ticket writing safer and more efficient because officers using cameras can ticket more people without having to pull over drivers.

Supporters say cameras increase safety and free up police resources for other crime fighting; critics say cities use them to boost revenues while violating motorists’ rights.

The state Supreme Court, which has twice upheld camera enforcement, is expected to rule later this year. Cases involving Toledo and Springfield cameras are on hold pending the ruling.

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