Littleton City Council Special Meeting – June 24, 2008 Minutes

Littleton City Council Special Meeting

24 June 2008 

John Ostermiller was absent.

 

Chief Heather Coogan presented ‘red-light ticketing technology and a license plate recognition system to the council.

 

License Plate Recognition System

This is technology that can scan license plates and compare them to a data base of known stolen cars, cancelled/revoked driver’s licenses, outstanding warrant(s) associated with the plates, known sex offenders and whatever other information in the data base.  The City tested the technology earlier this year over an eight day period and scanned approximately 15,000 license plates and found 62 with alerts on the plates, 4 stolen vehicles, 43 cancelled/revoked driver’s licenses and 15 outstanding warrants.

 

Based on the test results the LPD would like to purchase the system for their use.  Chief Coogan has received a commitment from Superintendent Scott Murphy (LPS) to contribute $7,500 to the cost of the system.  The LPD is asking for $43,600 to outfit two police cars and $26,650 to cover the cost of equipping a “covert” car with the system to be used for undercover investigations.

 

Jim Taylor asked how frequently Amber Alerts were downloaded into the data base.  Coogan said at this time it would happen at the beginning of each shift or every 8 hours.  However, there is progress being made that would get the Amber Alerts into the system automatically.  Another feature of the system that Coogan described is once a download is complete, if the system has scanned that license plate prior to the download, the system will tell the police when and where the license was scanned.

 

Taylor also wanted to know how long the information would be kept on file by the LPD.  Coogan said it is up to each agency.  The information is on a chip that could be kept for any length of time.

 

Doug Clark expressed concern based on a citizen’s concern.  This person loaned his car to someone that parked the car close to a demonstration.  The plate was in the data base and flagged as a violent protestor.  He is concerned that the information may be used for something other than its intended use.  He is also concerned with the accuracy of the system – nothing is 100% accurate.

 

Taylor said he agreed with Clark and he is also concerned about privacy concerns.

 

Coogan told the council that anyone that was “hit” would be stopped and a record of that stop will be created.  The guidelines for storage of the data would be up to the City but she cautioned them not to paint themselves into too small of a corner.  Her example was – what if we had the technology during the time of the bowling alley murders – if the police had driven by that area on that evening it might have helped in the investigation.

 

Clark preferred to see a written policy on the system and how it would be used before making a final decision to spend the money.

 

Taylor asked where the money to fund the system would come from.  Coogan said they had $64,000 in abandoned money that has been unclaimed since 2002.  By City Code the money becomes property of the City and is deposited into the General Fund.  She is proposing to use that money to pay for the system.

 

Jim Woods said without this money he would have recommended the Chief wait for the regular 2009 budget cycle to ask for the system. 

 

Clark has a problem with using the abandoned money – it is really money that is in the General Fund.

 

Woods said if other council members share Clark’s concerns he would recommend the Chief come back during the 2009 budget talks.

 

Coogan asked the council if she got private funding would there be any objections in the purchase and use of the technology.  Clark said no.  Coogan will be approaching insurance companies.  Clark said he was concerned about the policy.

 

Peggy Cole thought that one of the guiding principles of the policy should be the protection of privacy.  If the council thought they would be approving this in the 2009 budget Cole thought they should go ahead and get the equipment and use it.

 

Debbie Brinkman asked about the on-going costs associated with the technology.  The support for the first year is free, after that the cost will be $2,180 per year.  She asked, “Forever?” which got a chuckle.

 

Clark moved that Chief Coogan be directed to develop a policy to define the use of the system, to seek private funding and if private funding is not found to consider the equipment in the 2009 budget.  Motion passed 6/0.

 

Red-Light Ticketing Technology

Chief Coogan asked for permission to do a study to determine if the technology would be useful in Littleton. Currently, if there is an accident at one of our major intersections it requires all the officers to handle because the intersections are so dangerous.  The company selling the technology would do the study to determine if the technology is worthwhile for Littleton.

 

Taylor thought the City should have signs at all of the major entrances to the City to inform drivers that the technology is in use at select intersections but not tell drivers exactly where it is being used.  That makes all the intersections safe.

 

Coogan said signs and cameras will go up 30 days prior to actual use to inform the citizens of the use of the technology.. 

 

Suzanne Staiert, city attorney, quoted from the state law that states signs have to be posted no less than 300 feet from an intersection where the technology is in use.

 

Clark’s concern was how this technology was to be perceived since there are no points associated with tickets issued through this technology.  It will look like the only purpose is to create a revenue stream.  It doesn’t modify everyone’s behavior.

 

Woods said they know where the dangerous intersections are in the City and they are out of fiscal options.

 

Coogan said Greenwood Village (GWV) has seen a 40% reduction in the running of red lights at Orchard and Quebec and 30% reduction at Arapahoe Road and Yosemite.

 

Clark said Boulder had seen a 57% reduction but they still had 69 people running red lights everyday.  He asked how many of the accidents are caused by drivers running red lights?  That’s the real issue.

 

Coogan said that is why they would do a study.

 

Woods said even with a study you can’t say how many running red lights cause accidents.  He did not know if GWV’s intersections would match up to our intersection in a comparison.

 

Coogan said they would need to look at accident reports to see how many were caused by running red lights.  She said the 30 day test would give them the information they need to make a decision. 

 

Clark said the company selling the equipment does get a percentage of each ticket so they have a vested interest in getting the equipment into Littleton. It is a hard case to make that we are doing this for safety reasons since it will be installed where you can guarantee revenue will be generated.

 

Suzanne again read from the law that states that no part of the revenue from the ticket fines can be paid to the vendor.

 

Taylor asked if Littleton, as a home rule city, can have our judge put points on a license for the red-light tickets.

 

Suzanne said no – it has already been determined in the courts that they cannot do so.

 

Taylor said he strongly supports this technology and moved that the police arrange for a company to set up and evaluate red light technology at three intersections – Santa Fe and Mineral, Santa Fe and Bowles, and Littleton Blvd. and Broadway.  Motion passed 5/1 with Clark opposing.

 

Other Equipment for the DNC

Chief Coogan has evaluated the equipment currently being used by the LPD and they do not have light-weight helmets and body protection gear.  The cost of providing the equipment is $14,000 which is outside of their current budget – they might be able to support the purchase with $3,000 but they have been spending their budget for other needs to prepare for the DNC.

 

Woods asked for a Resolution rather than a budget amendment since it would not require two readings.

 

Brinkman asked if they would be reimbursed by the DNC – Coogan said not for equipment.

 

Brinkman moved that they go into an executive session to get legal advice on the Intergovernmental Agreement with Denver for the DNC before making this decision. Motion passed 6/0.

 

Upon reconvening into regular session Taylor moved that a resolution be prepared for city council to approve a contingency transfer of $14,000 to equip Littleton officers to respond to mutual aid calls.  Jose seconded and motion carried 6/0.

 

Ordinance for DNC

An Ordinance entitled, “An Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Littleton, Colorado, pertaining to demonstrations, rallies, picket lines and other public assemblies” was discussed.  This type of ordinance has been approved by other municipalities around Littleton to deal with the DNC. 

 

Clark said when he read this the word broad came to mind.  If we pass this we outlaw baseball, softball, badminton, hockey, Halloween, people walking dogs, marching bands, cell phones and Ipods.  The gathering of people for specific purposes covers Western Welcome Week and sports.  The picket defined by this ordinance is too thin to put a sign on.

 

Brinkman asked if the Ordinance would sunset – Suzanne said no.  Brinkman thought the ordinance could be “tightened up a bit” – something more like what Arapahoe County has adopted.

 

Clark said we have what we need already.  What we don’t have is the ability to arrest people on their way to something.  This is Littleton – we are not LA or downtown Denver.  The worst thing we have is T-shirts with WalMart on them.

 

Suzanne said the ordinance is more for people taking a look at the laws before coming in to demonstrate to see what they can do.  This has already been upheld by the Court and you have to look at how the law is applied rather than extreme enforcement.

 

Cole read from a prepared statement.  I have included it below.

 

. June 24, 2008, City Council Study Sessions

Peggy Cole

Discussion on Ordinances for Democratic National Convention

First, I want to say that keeping Littleton safe and secure is one of the Council’s highest priorities. To assure that goal, Littleton has, I believe, the best police department in the state, headed by the best police chief.

 

However, I am concerned with the precedents the proposed ordinances would set, particularly relating to “the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” to speak freely and openly, and, when they feel the need, to protest actions of the government, not only at the federal and state levels, but also at the local level. Dissent is not only fundamental to the American way of life, it is, according to the Declaration of Independence, a duty.

 

As I read and studied the proposed ordinances, I thought of the scene that unfolded on television in Tianamen Square 20 years ago and the strikingly different scenes in Europe earlier this month, where  farmers and truckers protested skyrocketing fuel costs. 

If we had read about the proposed ordinances being in effect in China, would we not speak out against them?

 

Questions and Concerns:

1.       What is the source of these ordinances?  They appear the same as those just passed on a 3-2 vote by Arapahoe County, which I believe were based on California ordinances.  [I didn’t read this because the City Attorney had already provided this information.]

2.       What are the ultimate goals and values reflected in the proposed ordinances?

a.       Primary should be ensuring the right to assemble peaceably and the freedom to speak, without intimidation.

b.       The proposed ordinances seem to assume that every individual intends to assemble unpeaceably.

3.       The focus should be on each person’s actions. How can anyone know the intent for which a person intends to use something?

4.       The proposed ordinances would prohibit participation of people who need to use a crutch or a cane.

5.       Will the proposed ordinances really maintain the peace?  The prohibited items do not exclude many everyday things that might be used as “weapons” – e.g., pens, umbrellas, and flashlights. Anyone who truly wants to be violent will find a way to create weapons.

6.       If  police officers are going to be in full anti-riot gear and carry batons, gas, and other things, should not people who are observing as well as the people who have assembled peaceably be allowed to have gas masks to protect themselves from gas sprayed at someone who becomes violent?

 

 

Jose thought it was too much – in fact it prohibits so much and there is no place for it in our city government.

 

Coogan said she understood the comments and said nothing relieves the police from their obligations under the Constitution and 5th Amendment rights.

 

Brinkman said it was severe but it does address the complete unknown.  It is a different world – people have been planning to demonstrate longer than people have been planning the convention.  Protestors are looking for guidelines and I think we need to provide something but I don’t think this is it.

 

Clark said we are a nation of laws and that laws should be something that the average citizen should be able to read and understand.  Even if we could narrow this and get the language we want he was still not sure there was enough reason to pass this in Littleton.  There needs to be a public safety need to justify doing so.

 

Taylor came to the same conclusion as Clark but was willing to go to a public hearing on July 15 and sunset the ordinance after the DNC.

 

Clark said the City Manager has the ability to create regulations and if the real intent is to handle one event (DNC) we have a way to do so.  We don’t have an issue with riots or protests.

 

Brinkman said if we don’t do anything and other cities do we leave ourselves vulnerable.

 

Woods said if the council did not feel comfortable with the ordinance he did not want to go to a public hearing.  It is for big cities for the protection of the police.  The police busting up baseball games is so far out of the realm – it is not worth the brain damage.  We will find a way to get through it.  We will find other ways to protect our officers.

 

Legislative Rules and Procedures

Cole moved to table the discussion until July 1st so John Ostermiller would be present for the discussion.  Motion passed 6/0.

 

Taylor asked for a strikethrough version of the suggested changes Cole has made.  Suzanne said her office is already doing that and it will be provided in the council packets.

 

Clark and Brinkman will work with the consultant to develop the profile for the hiring of a new community development director.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: