Michael Finn: Leading Redflex on the Road with Public Safety

by Andrea Aker

The path from tech startup to a market leader is rarely straight. It’s filled with peaks and valleys that create a unique landscape, culture and opportunity in the marketplace. Over the past quarter century, Glendale-based Redflex Traffic Systems has traversed a very diverse terrain. Now, CEO Michael Finn, who has held the post since May 2015, is ushering the company into a new era with a revived culture and more opportunities to improve public safety and fulfill the needs of law enforcement agencies across North America.

Best known for operating automated photo enforcement programs, Redflex partners with municipalities to reduce red-light running, speeding and myriad other dangerous driving behaviors. While many know the Redflex name, few know its story, mission and innovations.

“The people who work here are truly committed to saving lives,” says Finn. “They hear myths or distortions that a vocal minority spreads, yet they remain steadfast in their mission to make the world a safer place. We have developed technologies and services that enable police officers to perform their jobs more effectively, ultimately ensuring we all make it home safely each night.”

Founded in 1987 as American Traffic Systems and acquired by Redflex in 1997, the company has been headquartered in the Valley since day one. It launched North America’s first photo enforcement program in Paradise Valley, which quickly gained the accolades of a police department with limited patrol capabilities and garnered the attention of forward-thinking, resourceful law enforcement agencies nationwide. Redflex was the first to solve a problem that vexed communities of all types and sizes — they experienced dangerous driving behaviors on certain roadways, but had no way of effectively enforcing the law consistently. Without a 24/7 deterrent, risk-taking drivers took their chances, too often injuring and killing innocent people in the process.

With just a handful of employees in the ‘90s, a vision for safer American roadways took root. Redflex spent the coming years carving a path for the industry, educating the country about safe driving behaviors and continually identifying new solutions for specific needs of police departments. The growing team developed new, advanced ways to help officers enforce the law more affordably and efficiently while freeing up patrols, improving officer safety and enabling better resource allocation.

Fast forward three decades: Redflex now employs more than 200 people in Glendale and around the country, and operates 145 photo enforcement programs throughout the United States, with an additional 15 programs in Canada and Mexico.

“Automated photo enforcement is an emotional issue for folks on all sides because lives are at stake,” Finn says. “We recognize that, and I have made it part of my mission to increase transparency and further educate the public about the technology and its benefits.”

The company overcame its greatest challenge several years ago following the highly publicized illegal acts of some former employees. The company admitted its mistakes, changed its business practices, reorganized leadership, and moved on powerfully and positively. Says Finn, “Now stronger than ever, we lead the industry in ethical practices, implementing best-in-class anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies, training and procedures. We have since exemplified the highest standards in effective private/public partnerships, and are now focused on driving innovation and customer-focused business practices.”

Poised at the helm of this new era, Finn is finding Redflex employees excited once again.

“Our history of technological advancements is now framing our future,” he says. “We are identifying new needs and increasing awareness of newer products that protect children, pedestrians and road workers. We even have a crash preemption and avoidance system that has the power to prevent deadly collisions.”

Approachable and friendly, Finn has an open-door policy that is attractive to employees who feel more empowered than ever to share ideas, concerns or anything else that’s top of mind. “I believe it’s critical for business leaders to listen more than they talk,” he says. “It’s amazing what you can discover about your people, products and potential when you zip your lips and ask for honest feedback.”

Moving forward, Finn wants to extend the company’s foothold beyond red-light and speed cameras. “There are a multitude of ways we can assist municipalities, and, with a workforce that’s engaged more than ever, I believe we’re ripe for innovation and will no doubt find new ways to improve public safety and save more lives in the future.”


Finn Facts at a Glance

  1. Prior to Redflex, Michael Finn held various leadership roles at a mapping navigation firm called NAVTEQ, which was acquired by Nokia.
  2. Finn holds a B.A. in Economics from Cornell University, New York State, and an MBA from the University of Michigan.
  3. Under the leadership of Finn, Redflex earned the 2017 Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Impact Award for Innovation.
  4. In addition to red-light and speed cameras, Redflex operates programs that protect roadside workers and children as they enter and exit the school bus.
  5. Redflex offers a photo enforcement product with unique crash preemption and avoidance system that actually anticipates when a vehicle is about to run a red light and automatically holds the “red” phase for all lanes until the offending vehicle has cleared the intersection.
  6. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted one of the most comprehensive studies assessing the effectiveness of automated red-light photo enforcement. It found a 21-percent reduction in red-light-running fatalities across 79 cities with camera programs operating through 2014. That percentage translates to 1,296 lives saved.

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