When a camera catches you blowing through a red light, you get a citation in the mail with a $158 fine.
That is, unless you're a cop in certain South Florida locales.
While most cities are ticketing cops like other drivers, three in Broward County are fining officers from other agencies — while giving their own a pass. Cops in Hallandale Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Sunrise instead may get a verbal warning or written reprimand if they're caught on camera running a red light without a legitimate reason.
And one town in Palm Beach County, Juno Beach, doesn't even bother with red-light violations by police vehicles, whether they're on official business or not.
Since cameras came to South Florida about two years ago, cities have been wrestling with how to handle violations by cop cars. For the most part, each one is reviewed and ultimately dismissed if the officer was on a call or responding to an emergency.
But the policies vary among the cities and have led to some interesting exchanges.
"Sorry to bother you," a deputy U.S. marshal wrote to a West Palm Beach police sergeant. "You might be able to help with a little problem that I have."
The marshal had received a violation in her personal car but said she was on "official business.''
"Is there anything I could do to resolve this issue?'' she wrote. "Pleeease help me."
Cities should avoid the perception that they're giving police officers special treatment, said former cop Dennis Kenney, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
"We pride ourselves on being a rule-of-law nation," Kenney said. "And the rule of law requires that the law be enforced equally and evenly regardless of who one is."
In Hallandale Beach, three city cops caught by cameras running red lights were not fined. Instead, they were given written reprimands.
But Hallandale Beach will ticket officers from other agencies caught by the city's red-light cameras.
"If it's one of our officers, we deal with it internally," Hallandale Police Chief Dwayne Flournoy said. "We may counsel them. We may give them a written [reprimand]."
Flournoy contends that a written reprimand is worse than a fine because it could lead to harsher discipline if the officer continues to run red lights without justification.
"If they could just pay the $158, many of them would rather pay that," Flournoy said.
But most drivers, if given the chance, would prefer a written reprimand, Kenney said.
"It's much more preferable than a fine. If the police are exempted, I would assume that somewhere down the line someone will challenge their tickets," Kenney said. "It would be no different if the department decided to let black people or Jewish people off if they ran the red light. It's not only wrong but it's damaging to the social contract the police have with the public."
Davie had planned to give all cops a pass — until Hollywood fined a Davie cop for running a red light.
"If that's the trend, we decided to cite officers if they are caught running red lights," said Davie police Capt. Dale Engle.
The town started fining all red-light runners in September. So far, only one officer in an unmarked unit from South Bay has been ticketed, Engle said.
In West Palm Beach, all manner of official vehicles have blown through red lights in the two years since the city started ticketing violators.
Sgt. Matthew Bessette decides whether they had a valid reason or should be fined.
The explanations he receives run the gamut:
"The reason that I violated the law was because I was responding to a shooting," wrote a West Palm Beach police lieutenant.
A Palm Beach County sheriff's deputy said he was trying to catch a car with an unrestrained infant in the back seat when he ran a red light.
"Traffic was to [sic] busy," he wrote. "I really thought I made it before the light changed, but once again I am very sorry, and it will not happen again."
Another deputy wrote that he had been testifying in court when he noticed a package left behind and tried to catch up to the owner once he left the courthouse.
"I was concentrating on not losing sight of the vehicle and it appeared the green light was still in my favor," the deputy wrote, adding that he eventually did reach the car and returned the package.
Federal and state courthouses make downtown West Palm Beach a hub of activity, Bessette said.
"We have agencies from all over the tri-county area,'' he said. "They do flow in and out."
He said the city has issued tickets to its own officers, including one caught on camera in her patrol car in July.
Records did not indicate the officer was responding to any calls, and she "offered no valid reason for running the red light," an internal police memo says. The officer paid the $158 fine.
Hollywood tickets officers — including its own — who run red lights when not on a police call.
"Here it doesn't matter if you're a Hollywood cop or not. You're getting the citation if you're not on a call," said Hollywood spokesman Jaime Hernandez.