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Montgomery's Finest Won't Pay Fines

The dispute over the citations is the latest in a series of confrontations between county police commanders and the union, which has become increasingly powerful in recent years.

Leaders of the police union recently filed a grievance arguing that the citations constitute a change in labor conditions that the department must negotiate with the union before implementing.

Some sergeants, who are covered by the union, have refused to investigate whether infractions occurred when officers were responding to calls, forcing commanders to turn to lieutenants, who are not represented by the union, according to two law enforcement sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the cases are being investigated as personnel matters.

The sources said the cruiser in one of the incidents in which a vulgar gesture was made was assigned to Michael Simpson, an officer in Wheaton. One of the sources said Simpson appears to have been responding to a call in January when he was traveling at more than 80 mph on Randolph Road.

Simpson received speed camera citations in November and December, according to a database of citations obtained under a public records request.

Simpson did not respond to an e-mail message seeking comment, and efforts to contact him through the department's media office were unsuccessful.

Supervisors at the three municipal police departments in the county that operate speed cameras -- Gaithersburg, Rockville and Chevy Chase Village -- said employees have not resisted paying fines.

"We hold them responsible," said Rockville Police Capt. Bob Rappoport, whose department has received about a half-dozen citations. "Our officers have paid out of their own pockets."

Gaithersburg and Rockville officers are not represented by the same union as county police officers, and the Chevy Chase Village police do not have a union.

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who said he received and paid for a speed camera citation recently, said that he disagrees with the county police union's position but that he is confident that Manger will hold his officers accountable.

Under the law, owners of vehicles, not drivers, are punished for failure to pay fines. Manger said, however, that officers who continue to ignore citations might be disciplined.

Montgomery is the only county in Maryland that is authorized to use cameras to enforce speed limits, but legislation is moving through the General Assembly this year to allow speed cameras statewide.

A bill introduced by Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration would allow local jurisdictions to use speed cameras in residential neighborhoods, near schools and on highways with construction work. The Senate could vote on the measure as early as next week.

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