Jurors vote for cameras on school buses

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Putting cameras on school buses to catch violators who drive around those loading and unloading children turned out to be a controversial issue for Calcasieu Police Jurors. There was talk of postponing action jurors but jurors made their decision tonight.

For some,  it seemed like a no brainer. Put cameras on school buses to catch drivers that fail to stop-- with the idea of making children safer. Said Juror Elizabeth Griffin, "I cannot see myself as a mother and a grandmother passing up this opportunity to protect our children."  It was an easy decision for Juror Dr. Charles Mackey. "It is already in one of the parishes in Louisiana?"
Assistant School Superintendent Gary Anderson told him, "Jefferson parish." Mackey: "And it is working fine?" Anderson: "Yes sir."   Mackey says, "That's all I need to know." Juror Chris Landry also had little difficulty with the decision."I don't really see what the problem is. If people don't violate the law, they're not going to get a ticket."

The problem for some, a private company operates the program and gets a big share of money collected from tickets. Juror Ellis Hassien has difficulty with the idea that it's a money making enterprise. "I'm all for safety of children. But I think we've been blinded by safety of children and this is about profit. And that's what I have the biggest problem with."

Yet Calcasieu Sheriff's officials see it as a way to crack down on violators. Commander James McGee says they can't put a deputy behind every bus and bus drivers rarely are able to get the plate number of a violator. "None of the times really they get the plate number. Very few times do they get the license plate number. Of course they have distractions. They're watching the kids. They've got a bus load of kids. That is not working. Them getting the license, it's a good plan if they can get the license plate number. Do they ever? seldom. It's not their fault. It just doesn't happen."

Some jurors wanted a pilot program before adopting an ordinance. But school officials say the company isn't willing to invest in a camera system on the buses unless the ordinance is a sure thing. Explained Anderson, "I don't think the company is going to put out that money to go for a thirty day trial and it come back with the hope that an ordinance would pass."

After lengthy debate jurors approved the ordinance. Next each city in Calcasieu will be asked to agree to enforcement in their limits. Once the program starts there will be a 30 day grace period before any tickets are given. Those who voted for the ordinance to put cameras on school buses are McMillin, Brame, Andrepont, Collins, Griffin, Guidry, Landry, Mackey, Stelly and Treme. The no votes were Farnum, Hassien, Scott, Spell and Syas.