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Mayor, police chief back local radar use

Richard Fulton

(3/23) The use of radar by police to enforce speed limits began in 1948, and today is in use by state and local police in every state except Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, local police forces are prohibited from using radar as the result of a 38-year-old Pennsylvania law that states, "…electronic devices (such as radar) may be used only by members of the Pennsylvania State Police."

Efforts to change state law to allow local police departments to use radar has been attempted over several decades, and have invariably failed. This could change if the latest effort that was been introduced in the state legislature is ultimately passed.

One of a number of mayors across the state supporting the change include Carroll Valley Mayor Ronald Harris, who also happens to be the vice-president of the South Central Region of the Pennsylvania State Mayors’ Association.

Writing to his fellow members, Harris stated, "I urge you to support a change to the Motor Vehicle Code restricting the use of radar to only Pennsylvania State Police Officers."

Harris noted that a "Coalition to Eliminate the Prohibition Against Municipal Police Using Radar" backing the proposed change has been formed, consisting of "major law enforcement and municipal associations affected by this legislative prohibition."

Harris noted that allowing only state police to use radar creates an unequal playing field for enforcing the law. "Prohibiting municipal police officers from using a radar gun when those same officers are permitted to use a 40 caliber Glock or a taser is illogical and absurd."

Harris told the News-Journal, "It’s just rather strange that only state police can use the radar. They (police officers) should have the same rules. They should have the same kind of equipment. If people are concerned about people who drive faster than others then the police should be provided with the tools."

Under the existing law, local police must use non-radar methods of speed limit enforcement, which normally consists of timing vehicles as they pass through two predetermined, marked intervals of roadway.

The same law also creates dual sets of standards regarding when police may cite a driver for speeding. Under no circumstance may a diver be cited by state or local police for speeding unless they are traveling more than six miles per hour (mph) over the limit.

But if the posted speed limit is less than 55 mph, only local police (or state police using non-radar enforcement methods) are prohibited from issuing a citation unless the driver is traveling at ten or more mph over the limit.

Carroll Valley Borough Police Chief Richard Hileman stated, "We are stuck with either some kind of timing distance device or the ENRADD (Electronic Non-radar Device) stands which uses light beams and involves set-up time to even begin to use it."

"It's a bit of a complicated undertaking" to use the ENRADD system, he said, "and when a police car initiates a pursuit of a speeder, the equipment has to be left sitting on the side of the road unwatched. "With radar, you calibrate it, you go out and you turn it on."

The ENRADD system is also expensive, Hileman said, because it's specialized equipment made only by a Pennsylvania company for use only in Pennsylvania.

Regarding the costs, ENRADD states on its web site, "You get what you pay for and if a police department wants up to date and accurate equipment, they are going to pay for it."

Opponents state local police only want the radar to generate revenue for their municipality. However, Hileman said the municipalities get about $12 of any fine (which can be round $120) assessed against a driver.

Hileman said, as far as the proposed change allowing local police to have and use radar, "Sounds like we may (finally) have a chance to have our issue heard."

Mayor Harris said the existing law states that speed limits are enforced to "protect the public from the dangers of speeding, as a matter of public policy. To specifically legislate that municipal police are restricted in their enforcement of these public safety laws when the state police...are not so restricted, is an indefensible contradiction in public policy."

"Public safety should not be compromised in the absence of a compelling reason," he stated.

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