Legislature traveling wrong road with sheriff radar use

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 13, 2006

Mississippians don’t need radar to know the Legislature isspeeding down the wrong road in considering allowing countysheriffs’ departments to use the traffic enforcement devices.

The Senate last week approved a bill to allow use of radar bythe county law enforcement agencies in 28 counties. The bill headsto the House where leading legislators are not in favor of themeasure.

As has been the case of years past, the radar bill is likely tocome to a dead end again during the legislative process. A dead endremains the correct destination for the radar bill.

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Radar proponents cite increased roadway safety as a benefit ofthe bill. Perhaps, but the political ramifications are what concernus about expanding radar authority to sheriffs’ departments.

Some sheriffs, in the name of safety, may order deputies tovigorously enforce speed laws through use of the new radar tool.Too many tickets could find the sheriff voted out of office at thenext election – which presents the opportunity for selectiveenforcement near election time.

A more nefarious use – and a major lawmaker concern in rejectingradar – is the possibility of “speed traps” as a means ofgenerating extra revenue for the county. In that situation,out-of-town motorists could be unfairly targeted in the name ofspeed law enforcement.

On the other end of the spectrum, some sheriffs may fear thepolitical consequences and use radar only half-heartedly or maybenot at all. In this case, the safety argument for allowing radarwould be nullified through law officer inaction.

With lingering concerns about its use, radar for countysheriffs’ department should be a blip that quickly fades away fromthe 2006 legislative agenda.