Radar absurdity: Only in Pennsylvania are local police not trusted

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Pennsylvania has its oddities and one of the strangest is that police in municipal departments are trusted to have firearms but not radar guns. It’s been this way since the Legislature first allowed state police to use radar to ticket motorists in 1961.

The state is alone among all others in insisting that municipal police catch speeding motorists by using other, more inconvenient means, such as VASCAR, which measures a moving vehicle’s speed over a certain distance.

It would be more efficient and a better deterrent — state police with radar guns do get motorists’ attention — if municipal officers could use radar. But for years the Legislature has resisted the idea in deference to constituents who fear local police departments would use radar just to write tickets and increase revenue.

This absurdity needs to end. Last week the Senate Transportation Committee heard the reasons why local police should be allowed to use radar. “Understand one thing,” state police Commissioner Frank Noonan said at a hearing. “Giving the municipal police officers radar will save lives. There’s just no question about it.”

Advocates for the change also addressed the claim that radar would be used to boost local coffers, pointing out that towns receive a small portion of the proceeds from tickets — only $17.50 for speeding where the limit is under 65 mph. Besides, local communities can write tickets for dollars right now if they want to — and most don’t.

To allow local police to use radar would require a change in state law, and bills have been introduced in the House and Senate by state Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick (House Bill 1272), and Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler (Senate Bill 1340). They should be supported.

It’s past time that lawmakers stopped indulging the exaggerated fears of some constituents and started supporting a law enforcement tool that will slow speeders and save lives.

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