State College Police Chief Tells State Senate Committee Local Police Need Radar
State College Police Chief Thomas King told a state Senate committee Tuesday morning local police departments need radar as a speed enforcement tool.
"Despite the various reasons suggested about why municipalities and law enforcement agencies want access to radar for enforcement, it is not what we want but what we need to fulfill our mission and what our communities expect," King said. "The need for radar is about saving lives and reducing injuries and property damage."
Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that does not allow municipal police officers to use radar. Currently, state law only allows Pennsylvania State Police to utilize the tool. State troopers have been using it since 1962. Still, every attempt by municipal law enforcement and other groups to amend the state's law has failed.
King, who is president of the Pennsylvania Police Chiefs Association, spoke before the state Senate Transportation Committee along with Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan and Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police President Joe Regan.
All three law enforcement representatives say local police departments should have access to radar.
Pennsylvania ranks third in the number of speed-related fatal crashes after Texas and California, according to 2011 data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That year, there were 1,286 fatalities in Pennsylvania of which nearly half - or 615 - were speed related. Additionally, 87 percent - or 534 - of speed-related fatalities happened on roads monitored by local police departments.
"Time is of the essence to pass legislation authorizing radar for local law enforcement in Pennsylvania. We cannot continue to have persons killed on our roadways in Pennsylvania in speed-related crashes at a rate double the nation's state average," King said. "Countless studies have shown that one effective strategy to address a public health or safety threat is consistent enforcement of existing laws. In Pennsylvania, we have good speed-related laws, but inconsistent and inadequate enforcement in the clear majority of the commonwealth that is served by local law enforcement."
There are several bills before the General Assembly that would allow local police departments access to radar, including Senate Bill 1428 drafted by Sen. John Rafferty. The bill would allow full-time police officers at 24-hour police departments to use radar after completing training. Equipment must also be tested on an annual basis. Additionally, local police departments would have to report to the state police any revenue generated from radar citations.
Also speaking in support of radar for local police departments was James Nowalk, president of the Pennsylvania State Mayors Association, and Elam Herr, assistant executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors.