Safety top factor when mulling radar for sheriffs

Published 5:00 am Monday, March 17, 2008

An effort to allow sheriffs to use radar on roads theirdepartments patrol has again surfaced during the 2008 MississippiLegislature. The measure has passed the Senate and is awaitingconsideration in the House of Representatives.

Amid fears of speed traps and other concerns, radar bills havefailed in many prior legislative sessions. And the issue among thepublic still appears as contentious as ever.

A recent unscientific DAILY LEADER online poll found respondentsalmost evenly divided on the issue. Just a few votes over 50percent thought sheriffs should be allowed to use the speedenforcement devices.

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Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing, speaking to the Lions Clublast week, said radar would be a useful tool for his department. Hesaid radar would not be used to set up speed traps or focus onticket writing, but he did see where it could help in some placeswhere speeding is a concern for residents.

“It would be nice to have it to address problem areas,” Rushingsaid.

Speaking on integrity concerns, Rushing pointed out that votershave entrusted sheriffs with a gun and a badge to enforce the lawsof the county and state.

But given the failure of radar bills, that trust apparentlydoesn’t extend to the issue of radar.

We suspect many lawmakers and citizens who oppose radar have nodoubt their sheriffs would use the devices responsibly.Their concerns, though, seem to be with those othersheriffs who would use radar as a revenue generator.

It’s a situation similar to that of dissatisfaction withCongress when there are calls to “throw the bums out.” That soundsall well and good, but guess what?

My congressman is doing a good job and needs to stay,but those other lawmakers need to go.” If everyone feelsthat way, then the same lawmakers get re-elected and the status quoremains.

Sound familiar?

My sheriff needs radar, but those othersheriffs can’t be trusted so I can’t support it.” Therefore, radarlegislation doesn’t get passed and nothing changes.

It’s regrettable that some sheriffs likely would use radar fordubious purposes like speed traps to generate revenue.

But we are confident that many more sheriffs – not only ours butothers as well – would indeed use the devices responsibly tocontrol speeding and to address safety concerns within theirjurisdictions.

Safety is the most important consideration when discussingradar.

The threat of an expensive speeding ticket – and higherinsurance premiums – is enough to slow many motorists down. “Speeddemons” are going to exceed the limit anyway, but radar could stillbe some small deterrent to the dangerous behavior.

When it comes to radar, safety needs to take precedence overconcerns about how sheriffs would use the new tools. This should bethe year sheriffs finally get radar for their counties.