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Municipal Police Lobbying For Radar Guns

There are only six session days left on the calendar this session for the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and municipal police are lobbying for a set of bills that would allow them to use radar guns.

Senate Bill 1340 and House Bill 1272 would allow all police officers in the state to use the devices, not just state troopers, who have been using radar for more than 50 years. Neither has received a vote.

Municipal police departments have multiple options when it comes to catching speeders.

One of the most dangerous methods requires the laying of roadside sensors, which forces officers to cross high-speed traffic lanes to lay the devices, according to Dane Merryman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.

“Any time a police officer is out on the side of the road and in a position where vehicles are going by,” Merryman said, “he’s exposed to that kind of a risk.”

Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that prohibits municipal police from using radar guns.

Critics of the legislation say radar will be used unfairly by local officials as a revenue generator for municipalities, but according to Merryman, local governments only receive a small portion of the money taken from speeding tickets.

“It’s certainly not enough to actually prove to be a profitable venture for a municipality to put radar out there and try to generate revenue for the municipality,” he said. “That has been a big concern and the fact of the matter is it just isn’t an issue.”

According to the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, municipalities receive $17.50 from each ticket written in a zone where the speed limit is less than 65 mph.

But Merryman said people should be more concerned about safety than money.

According to a 2011 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Pennsylvania ranked third behind Texas and California in the number of speed-related fatal crashes. Of the 615 high-speed fatalities, 87 percent occurred on roads monitored by local police.

“We all want to reduce fatalities…” he said, “and this is a very strong tool that our law enforcement officers can use to very effectively reduce traffic fatalities.”

Combined, the bills have been sitting in committee for more than 22 months.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."
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