Giving sheriffs radar guns could set traps for us all

Published 6:00 am Friday, March 4, 2005

Mississippi’s sheriffs are again clamoring for the authority touse radar to catch motorists who drive too fast on their counties’roadways.

In recent years, most bills to give the sheriffs what they wanthave died quick, quiet deaths in the Legislature – as well theyshould.

While radar equipment, as the law enforcement officers say, mayallow them to slow down traffic and save lives, its use also bringsabout the possibility – or even the likelihood – of rampant speedtraps in our state.

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Realizing this, the Legislature has decided county sheriffsdepartments (with the exception of those in Lowndes and Harrisoncounties) and police departments in towns with a population under2,000 cannot run radar. Speed traps, which are less about publicsafety than generating additional revenue, cannot be tolerated, andlawmakers must stick to their guns to see that they are not.

To hear the sheriffs’ argument, one might think there is noalternative to radar. This simply isn’t true.

Under state law, sheriffs and their deputies can writea speeding ticket without using radar equipment by simply pacingthe driver with their patrol cars. This may be more tedious thanzapping suspect cars with a radar gun, but it is an accurate andeffective method of monitoring speed.

What’s more, this method actually increases the visibility oflaw enforcement officers on our state’s roadways, which also seemsa deterrent to any driver with a lead foot.

If having the sheriff breathing down your neck while drivingwon’t slow you down, perhaps nothing will.