Maryland: Traffic Camera Company Launches Propaganda Campaign
When a police spokesman is quoted in a newspaper or on a radio program regarding photo enforcement, everything he says is carefully scripted by the private company dependent on the survival of the program for its revenue. This became clear after a Maryland activist yesterday released contract documents that outline the role of Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) in creating the sales pitch delivered to the public by Montgomery County officials. StopBigBrotherMD.org obtained copies of the contract in which ACS receives a cut of every ticket the company issues, promising in return to control all aspects of communications regarding the program.
“ACS recognizes that public acceptance of the photo speed enforcement program plays a vital role in achieving Montgomery County’s goal,” the contract states. “The key to ACS’ success is our ability to anticipate frequently asked questions and prepare the necessary materials, information and quotes to reporters who ask these questions… ACS is the only vendor who has a dedicated media relations officer. We will work closely with the county’s public information officer of contract administrator to respond to all media inquiries.”
The camera company is responsible for generating “statistics on the program” and “reports on the accomplishments of the program,” giving the company with a direct financial interest in the program the role of passing judgment on the program’s effectiveness. The statistics, after ACS finishes “clarifying” and “amplifying” the data, will help the company avoid spending time “defending the program to a dissatisfied public.”
To accomplish this, the company promised to “nurture” relationships with the local media. The most receptive, ACS claimed, has been The Washington Post.
“The program, as currently envisioned by our team, would include writing and placing one or more articles in the local, daily newspaper of the county’s choice,” the contract stated. “ACS experience shows that outreach to traffic reporters and commuter journalists such as Dr. Gridlock of The Washington Post increases support and understanding of the program… We have been successful in providing the necessary information to high-profile newspapers such as The Washington Post where positive stories about the enforcement programs have been published.”
The Post’s Dr. Gridlock column regularly re-prints the information fed to it by ACS without critical analysis or counterpoint and ignoring the paper’s own 2005 expose on the increase in accidents caused by the cameras in the nation’s capital.
Under the terms of the contract, ACS agreed to design the speed camera ticket, write all of the content for the county’s speed enforcement website, provide “public outreach” and opinion polling. It would create a detailed plan with a schedule of events and timeline, regularly updated for as long as the automated ticketing machines are in use. ACS planned the very first event held by the county to kick off the program.
“ACS will coordinate the press conference at the program’s commencement and coordinate all logistics, including preparing a media packet,” the contract stated. “ACS recommends that the press conference feature county officials, the police department and supportive residents and community leaders as proponents of the program.”
Under the contract, ACS agreed fund at least three public opinion surveys designed to build public support with carefully tailored results.
“ACS will work closely with the Montgomery County Police Department to fine tune and revise the survey questions, ensuring our survey meets the county’s expectations and goals,” the contract stated.
A copy of the contract excerpt is available in a 700k PDF at the source link below.
Community Awareness Campaign: Montgomery County (Affiliated Computer Services, 1/1/2006)
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If cities didn't get to keep the fines they or their subcontractors collect, wouldn't that pretty much end the use of speed traps and photo enforcement to generate revenue? For the original purpose of public safety, there's no logical reason that the government agency that imposes the fine gets to keep the money. Punishment and deterrence is the same for the motorist either way.
As described, I'd say the program amounts to an unconstitutional delegation of Maryland state powers to a non-governmental entity.