NewsWorks throws the lede down a mine shaft in story about speeding

I have to say, when it comes to consistently high-quality local news, WHYY’s NewsWorks is the reigning king of the mountain. That’s why they sit in the Philadelphia section of the blogroll, over on the right column of this page. But even they sometimes make an odd editorial choice, and the one in last week’s article in their ongoing series on speeding was rather mind-boggling.

Here is the 35th graf of the story:

[Philadelphia Police Traffic Division Sgt. William] Stermel said that since his lieutenant reached out to request their [State Police] assistance — by law, State Police are the only law-enforcement entity permitted to use radar — cooperation between the agencies has been optimal and that “people have been slowing down” since there are few places to hide marked units along those roadways [Kelly, Lincoln and MLK Drives].

Wait, what was that?

by law, State Police are the only law-enforcement entity permitted to use radar

What.

OK, maybe this is my New Philadelphianism showing through, but around where I grew up, every postage-stamp jurisdiction with the funds to hire an officer and buy a Crown Vic for her to drive, would then send her out with a radar gun, ticketing whatever leadfoot drivers happened to chance across their boundaries. Restricting the radar guns to the State Highway Patrol might have caused the locals to raise their banners in rebellion. And well they should have; in addition to the revenue generated (because speed laws are the only laws more commonly broken than either marijuana prohibition or buying hooch in Delaware), speed enforcement does provide a safety benefit to the public that can be measured in lives. Lives of drivers, lives of passengers, and lives of other users of the road.

Radar and LiDAR are now mature technologies, and it makes no sense to restrict them to the hands of the State Police. If you’re worried about uniformity across the state, then create a state certification program for the officers who would use them. But radar and LiDAR guns are lifesaving devices that need to be gotten into the hands of our local police officers as soon as possible.

And Brian Hickey and NewsWorks could stand to bang this drum a little louder than the 35th graf. They did much better than that in the first report they did on the subject in September, but not everyone has a long memory, and clearly nobody in Harrisburg has put two and two together yet on the need to take this up. I would rather not wait, while more people die, for this problem to be fixed.

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