• 2 Investigates: Thousands of wrongfully issued speeding tickets

    By: Erica Byfield


    MCDONOUGH, Ga. - A Channel 2 Action News investigation uncovered a Georgia police department wrongfully ticketed thousands of people within the last decade.

    In the wake of Channel 2’s Erica Byfield’s questions, a metro police chief admitted what his officers did was wrong and state officials launched their own investigation.

    An officer who used to work for the McDonough Police Department tipped off Byfield.

    Do you want to make sure a police department who gave you a ticket using radar or laser followed the law? Here are a few tips you should follow.

    "I think it's unethical, I think it's basically unlawful. The police department is breaking the very laws they are supposed to be protecting," said the whistle-blower, who asked not to be identified.

    Based on information he provided, Byfield determined McDonough police gave out bad tickets throughout a 14-year span.

    In Georgia, any road patrolled by radar or laser must be tested by the state Department of Transportation, commonly known as GDOT, and ultimately approved by the state Department of Public Safety, or DPS.

    Byfield pulled McDonough PD’s paperwork.

    She found the city has had the same DPS permit on file since 1999 for 49 streets.

    The problem was that officers gave out tickets using speed detection devices on 16 additional streets.

    Byfield pressed the city's police chief to explain why.

    She asked, "Why did you use radar on streets that weren't approved?"

    "That I don't have the answer for, but I hope to find that answer soon," Chief Preston Dorsey said.

    To get a glimpse of how many people McDonough police wrongfully cited, Byfield went through ticket records city-wide for the last five years.

    Industrial Boulevard is not approved for radar or laser.  Despite that, Byfield discovered McDonough officers issued 1,376 citations on that street and the city made at least $166,200 from fines associated with the tickets.

    Byfield and a producer called 100 people who received the tickets at the center of our investigation.  None knew there are rules to ticketing and none knew there are questions surrounding the tickets McDonough police gave them.

    "If you're not allowed to use a radar gun on a street, you shouldn't use it," said Scotty Williams.  A McDonough officer clocked Williams for going 49 in a 35 MPH zone on Industrial Boulevard in 2009.

    Byfield took the findings to the state and within two days, DPS’s Special Investigations Division opened an investigation.

    "It was our questions that brought this to your attention?" Byfield asked.

    "That's correct," DPS spokesman Gordy Wright said.

    McDonough's police chief told Byfield the extra enforcement was a mistake.

     "We didn't intentionally run radar on those streets," Dorsey said.

    Channel 2 Action News put in a series of open records requests while investigating this story.

    In the process, Byfield learned that GDOT has a 2002 list of streets on file for McDonough police that differs from the streets DPS permitted.

    Byfield found an email from March of 2013 directed at the police department's leadership.

    In it, an officer alerts them to the problem.

    Nine months later, around the same time Byfield started asking questions, Dorsey called for an internal investigation.

    "Why did you guys wait so long to start your own investigation?" Byfield asked.

    "We were not clear that we were violating the radar street permit until we met with the state," Dorsey said.

    Even so, in the same conversation Dorsey admitted he instructed his officers to stop using radar and laser on those streets right after he got the email.

    He also confirmed his department has yet to notify any of the drivers who received bad tickets.

    The drivers we tracked down want something.

    "Yeah, I would like to get my money back," said Kenneth Daniel.

    Dorsey did not want to go that far, but did make a promise.  "The city will do the right thing," he said.  He would not explain what that may be.

    "I think they need to follow the law like we do. Point blank. Period," said Williams.

    The DPS’s investigation is ongoing.

    Worst case scenario, McDonough police could lose the privilege to use radar or laser.

    Do you want to make sure a police department who gave you a ticket using radar or laser followed the law? Here are a few tips you should follow.

    Next Up:

  • Headline Goes Here

    2 Investigates: Thousands of wrongfully issued speeding tickets