The Montana House has tentatively approved a measure to
prohibit law-enforcement officers from running routine traffic checks while in
The bill sponsor, Rep. Scott Mendenhall, R-Whitehall, said
the practice amounts to an invasion of privacy.
“As policymakers, we have to decide do we want to adhere to
our strong privacy statement in the constitution, or an increasing trend toward
increasing police presence in our lives,” Mendenhall said.
Representatives voted 56-44 on Feb. 23 to prohibit use of
unmarked cruisers when officers covertly monitor and enforce traffic laws. The
bill must survive a final vote before heading to the Senate for consideration.
Mendenhall’s proposal, which excludes vehicles used by
detectives and undercover agents, comes about a year after the Highway Patrol
revived the use of unmarked cars for the first time in 30 years.
Lt. Col. Mike Tooley, deputy chief of the Montana Highway
Patrol, told lawmakers the agency has about 13 of the vehicles, which are not
painted with the patrol emblem and do not have the traditional emergency lights
array on their roofs. The vehicles do have such lights within the vehicle and
hidden behind the front grill.
The bill – HB368 – would cost Montana about $32,000 to
repaint unmarked state patrol cars.