The Montana House has approved a bill to prohibit
law-enforcement officers from running routine traffic checks in unmarked cars.
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 told The Associated
Representatives voted 73-27 on March 21 to prohibit use of
unmarked cruisers when officers covertly monitor traffic and enforce traffic
laws. The bill has been sent to the Senate for further 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.
The agency has about 13 of the vehicles, which are not
painted with the patrol emblem or don’t have the traditional emergency lights
arrays 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.