COLLIER COUNTY — Red means stop for Collier County sheriff’s deputies too.
In many communities that have installed red-light running cameras across the country, government and law enforcement vehicles are exempt from receiving citations. Not so in Collier County, said Lt. Harold Minch of the Sheriff’s Office’s traffic enforcement unit.
“That is not the case here,” Minch said. “Our sheriff said absolutely no to that one.”
Since Collier first started installing red-light running cameras last April, five on-duty Collier deputies have been issued six red-light running citations from the cameras, according to records. However, five of the six citations have been dismissed for law enforcement purposes.
Deputies who receive a citation have three options: pay the fine or contest it, as other citizens can do, or submit a sworn affidavit to the Sheriff’s Office explaining why running the light was necessary as part of their duties.
“It doesn’t just mean you’re just here driving around in a marked patrol car,” Minch said. “It means you’re performing a law enforcement task that requires you to drive through that light at that time.”
The first deputy to receive a citation was Deputy Jeff Wray on Sept. 18, at the intersection of Golden Gate Parkway and Collier Boulevard. The other four deputies who have had tickets dismissed are: Cpl. Rommel Ariza, Cpl. Vincent Sparacino, Cpl. Shawn Bogart, and Cpl. Ari Mantalvanos, all between Nov. 13, 2009 and Dec. 2, 2009.
For the most part, the deputies’ statements consist of a few sentences explaining the call they were on when they ran the light. Wray was responding to a fight, Ariza was responding to a domestic violence call, and Bogart and Mantalvanos were responding as backup units to traffic stops, according to their sworn statements.
For his part, Sparacino wrote a two-page statement explaining that he was responding as backup to a possible burglary in progress.
“As evident in the red-light camera video, there were no other vehicles present at the intersection,” Sparacino wrote. “Because of the potential danger to the deputy on scene ... I proceeded through the intersection triggering the red-light camera.”
Records indicate that Ariza actually received two citations over a two-week period. His citation from Nov. 13 at the intersection of Airport-Pulling Road and Davis Boulevard was dismissed. His citation on Nov. 26 at the same intersection is still pending.
“I haven’t had a sworn statement come by,” Minch said. “I think he’ll be paying that one.”
Minch said that red-light citations involving on-duty deputies whose emergency lights aren’t activated are approved just like any other. It is then up to the deputies to prove that running the light was justified because of their duties.
“If they have their emergency lights activated, we don’t approve them,” Minch said. “We know they are in emergency mode at that point. That’s the same for ambulances and fire trucks.”
Citations that are approved are mailed from the vendor, American Traffic Solutions, to the Sheriff’s Office, and are addressed to Sheriff Kevin Rambosk. The citations are then sent to the appropriate deputy, Minch said.
Through Feb. 1, more than 21,500 citations have been sent to alleged red-light runners, Collier County transportation spokeswoman Connie Deane said in an e-mail. There are currently 12 approaches being monitored at eight intersections.
The Sheriff’s Office does not track red-light running citations issued to off-duty employees driving their own vehicles, Minch said.
On-duty deputies who received red-light running citations don’t receive any additional penalties or reprimands other than having to pay the $62.50 fine, Minch said. However, if a deputy gets several citations, Minch said he would personally address that deputy.
“If these rules are good enough for you to follow,” Minch said, “they’re certainly good enough for us to follow.”
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Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan-mills