Least surprising news of the week (updated with a Bob Stein revision!)
That HPD tried to tweak the city's questionable red light camera study to produce a more favorable conclusion -- one more in line with what MayorWhiteChiefHurtt have been peddling ever since the cameras were first installed:
The Houston Police Department tried to influence the outcome of a controversial city-commissioned study by changing how crashes at intersections with red-light cameras were counted, according to documents included in a lawsuit.
HPD’s request was refused by the study’s authors, however, who concluded the number of accidents at 50 intersections with the cameras had increased, not decreased as city officials expected, documents say.
Attorneys fighting to end Houston’s 2-year-old red-light camera program seized on the documents — released after an open records lawsuit they filed against the city — as evidence the study was tainted by a purposefully skewed methodology.
According to an e-mail included in the lawsuit, an HPD official asked Stein in April to rule out accidents if they occurred more than 100 feet from the intersection. Kallinen also said that documents he obtained indicated the department attempted to rule out crashes that did not involve a red-light violation. Either of those steps would be more likely to lead to results showing the cameras reduced crashes, Kallinen said.
Stein, whose involvement has been criticized because his wife works for White, said the study’s other authors rejected HPD’s suggested change because they were using what they believed was the best methodology.
Mayoral spokesman Patrick Trahan said the police had legitimate reasons to consider limiting the crashes that way, as they did not want the study to include collisions that had nothing to do with running red lights or the cameras.
UPDATE: Over at the Houston' Press' Hairballs blog, Houston bicyclist Bob Stein goes on a tear, giving his side of things, including this:
Third, Stein argues that he was misquoted when he reportedly said that "collisions are going up all over the city." This quote appeared in a January Associated Press story as well as elsewhere in the media.
It was "A complete and gross misrepresentation of the quote," says Stein. "I said, 'collisions are going up all over the city at the intersections that we studied,' not that they were going up all over the city. They in fact are going down, which is clearly demonstrated in the emails. Collisions throughout the city are not what we were studying."
Hmmmm, here's what was written in the Chronicle at the end of December:
Study authors said the reason for the increase at "monitored approaches" is actually that the city has seen a major uptick in collisions during the past year, one that they believe red-light cameras helped mitigate. In other words, the study, released today, concludes that there were far fewer collisions at intersections with red-light cameras than there otherwise would have been if the cameras had not been installed.
"Collisions are going up all over the city," said Bob Stein, a Rice University political science professor and one of report's four authors. "But red-light cameras have held back that increase at approaches where they have been installed."
Clear as mud.