Allegheny County municipalities again lead push for local police to use radar
Municipal officials once again are trying to convince state legislators to allow local police to use radar guns for speed enforcement.
Since 1961, Pennsylvania State Police have been the only officers in the state authorized to operate radar or laser speed-measuring devices, leaving municipalities and legislators to try year after year to loosen the restrictions. Pennsylvania is the only state that restricts radar to state police.
Mt. Lebanon commissioner Kelly Fraasch has started RadarforPA.com to persuade the public and rally supporters. Now she, Whitehall Mayor James Nowalk and Mt. Lebanon police Chief Coleman McDonough are asking Allegheny County Council to back Senate Bill 1340 or House Bill 1272, which would allow local police to use radar.
“It's unbelievable when I sit in these (advisory board) meetings and start talking about it, how many residents think we already have it,” Fraasch said.
Mt. Lebanon passed a resolution last week supporting the bills. Other municipalities, including Brentwood and Whitehall, have passed supporting resolutions of their own, and Fraasch's website has a sample resolution for other towns.
Without radar guns or LiDAR (the laser-powered equivalent), local police must use alternative speed-measurement devices, such as pairs of roadside sensors or painted lines and timers, to determine a vehicle's speed.
But those methods require more space, more setup time and more manpower to operate than a radar gun that's calibrated once before a shift, said McDonough.
John Bowman, spokesman for the National Motorists Association, a Wisconsin-based drivers rights organization, said his organization remains opposed to the bills and others like them that have cropped up about once every two years for the last decade or so.
“The spread of radar technology to local police departments is conducive to setting up speed traps, which are inherently unfair to motorists and are not guided by highway safety concerns,” Bowman said.
McDonough said the most common arguments against allowing local cops to use radar — that it's just a way for municipalities to raise money through speeding tickets, and officers won't get training to properly run the equipment — don't hold water.
Revenue from traffic tickets is divided among the state, county and municipality, and the municipal share is seldom enough to cover the costs, McDonough said. He also said the technology is no more complicated than any other equipment officers use.
Pennsylvania has the country's third-highest number of traffic fatalities in which speed was a factor, said Nowalk, president of the Pennsylvania State Mayors' Association. Pennsylvania is behind only larger and more populated Texas and California.
“The places these lives are being lost are on roads enforced by local police departments,” he said. “It's worse than an unfunded mandate; we have the resources but we're not allowed to use them.”
Both bills are assigned to House and Senate transportation committees, respectively, awaiting debate and action there.
Nowalk and Bowman both noted that there appears to be a lot more interest this year in the bills, though Nowalk attributed it to municipalities getting more organized than in past years and not in response to residents wanting better speed enforcement. Bowman said more people are worried about increasing police power in an era of increased surveillance.
Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Col. Frank Noonan said through a spokesman that he favors lifting the restriction.
“It's an effective way to monitor speed on Pennsylvania's roadways, it's easy to use… and it's an effective tool,” said Trooper Adam Reed, State Police spokesman. “State Police already patrol many rural roads that don't have local police coverage and can use radar there, he said.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add Matthew Santoni to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Think before you ink: Tattoo removal a $27M annual business
- Avonworth Primary Center’s colorful concept aims to inspire creativity
- No takers for old McCandless movie theater
- Deaths of cats prompt review in Mt. Lebanon
- Young Achiever: Robert Veltre III
- Western Pa. municipalities’ rules for cell towers in flux