4/16/2008Pennsylvania: Cops Busted for Illegally Issuing 650 Speeding Tickets
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania police admit they violated the law in issuing 650 lidar-based speeding tickets.
A pair of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania motorcycle police are under fire for breaking state law to issue 650 speeding tickets between October 1, 2007 and April 10, 2008. The officers hid on Route 65 near the West End Bridge and used lidar, a prohibited laser-based speed estimation device. Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper admitted that the actions of his officers, who he declined to identify, violated the law.
"The officers were questioned on how many citations they have written and basically that's when it hit our screen that officers were illegally utilizing equipment," Harper said at a press conference yesterday. "It wasn't authorized.... We apologize to all the public for the inconvenience, and lidar will no longer be utilized."
KDKA-TV uncovered the fraud after being contacted by Jeff Grasha, a motorist who had received an illegal citation. Grasha said it was obvious the system was being used to raise money, not increase safety.
That was the reasoning of the state legislature forty years ago when it prohibited municipalities from using radar as a means of generating revenue (75 Pa.C.S. Section 3368). Although state police are allowed to use radar, no law enforcement agency in Pennsylvania has authorization to issue a citation with lidar. Repeated attempts to repeal the ban have failed despite pressure from insurance industry groups like AAA that support local radar and lidar use because it would lead to an increase in surcharges on automobile insurance policies.
In this case, the Pittsburgh officers were supposed to say that were "testing" lidar "along with" approved speed estimation devices. These include VASCAR -- a sophisticated version of a stop watch -- ESP, Accutrak and Enradd.
"It was a miscommunication between basically a supervisor and the officers," Chief Harper said. "Out of the 24 officers, two officers misunderstood that this was only to be a test."
Refunds will be issued and insurance companies may, on request, drop license points assessed as a result of the tickets.