Annual push underway in Pennsylvania to let local police use speed-detecting radar |

Annual push underway in Pennsylvania to let local police use speed-detecting radar

Jacob Tierney
State Trooper Roger Kaufman checks motorists’ speed using a radar gun near the Cheswick exit along Route 28 in June. 2005.

It’s a question that seems to have been around almost as long as the Model T: Should local police departments in Pennsylvania be allowed to use radar to catch speeders?

The state Senate thinks so. A bill permitting local police departments to use radar passed 49-1 last week.

Only state police are allowed to use radar in Pennsylvania. Local police departments make do with a stopwatch, or a laser system known as ENRADD.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that doesn’t let local police use radar. Police have been trying to change that for years.

“It’s a hot topic … something that we’ve been fighting for some time now,” said Mike Vogel, president of the Western Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association. “There’s really no reason that we shouldn’t possess those.”

The Senate passed a similar bill last year, but it died in the House.

Both the House and Senate have repeatedly considered the topic over several decades, without much progress.

Rep. Tim Hennessy, the Chester County Republican who chairs the House Transportation Committee, said his committee will likely start considering a radar bill soon but deliberations haven’t started.

“Radar seems to be the holy grail of all police departments,” Hennessy said.

The biggest concern for anti-radar advocates like the National Motorists Association is that local police departments will set up profitable speed traps, using speeding tickets as a way to earn revenue.

Association member Tom McCarey wrote an op-ed for PennLive in April arguing that radar should be banned in the state entirely. “Radar is not about highway safety,” he wrote. “Radar is about raising revenue.”

Vogel said local municipalities only make about $12 per speeding ticket. “We want our streets to be safe,” he said.

Hennessy said he wants to make sure any radar bill has safeguards to prevent it from being used as a revenue source.

“Personally, I’m not averse to the use of radar by local police,” he said. “I know some people don’t like the thought, but I think we might be able to put some decent restraints on it, or limitations, so it’s not used as a moneymaker.”

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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