Expanded speed radar use sought in Mississippi

| 1/16/2009

Multiple bills in the Mississippi Legislature would expand the use of radar by sheriff’s deputies in the state.

State law now restricts the use of speed radar detection equipment to the Mississippi Highway Patrol and city police departments. Cities with populations of fewer than 2,000 are prohibited from using radar on their public streets while populations of more than 15,000 can use radar on federal highways within their boundaries.

Efforts to expand radar use in the state historically have struggled as opponents say the enforcement tool could be used to set up speed traps and rake in revenue from tickets. Supporters say the use of radar would help curb speeding and save lives in places where the population is growing outside city limits.

Multiple bills would give all county sheriffs the green light to use radar detection devices.

Sen. Billy Hudson, R-Purvis, is the sponsor of one of the bills – SB2134 – that would allow sheriffs to use radar on roads under the jurisdiction of the board of supervisors for maintenance and construction. Sheriffs could use the devices only on public streets, roads and highways of the county lying outside the limits of municipalities.

Another measure – SB2047 – would allow cities with at least 2,000 residents to use radar on state or federal highways within their boundaries. These communities now are limited to using radar solely on their public streets.

A separate bill – SB2224 – would authorize all city police departments to use radar on local roads.

Other bills also would change the population threshold for cities to use radar. One measure – HB541 – would allow cities of at least 65,000 to use the detection devices on their public streets.

Two more bills would allow sheriffs to use radar enforcement based on the county’s population. The first bill – HB28 – would limit radar use to sheriffs in counties with more than more than 70,000 people while the second bill – SB2181 – would limit it to counties with at least 200,000 people.

The proposals for radar use don’t end there. One bill – HB439 – would allow the sheriff in Rankin County to use the devices on public streets, roads and highways lying outside the limits of incorporated cities. Another bill – HB112 – would authorize a pilot program in Jackson County. Up to 20 devices would be used for two years to determine the effect of the devices on speeding.

One more effort would place additional limits on some speed enforcement. The bill – HB231 – would prohibit the use of radar on state or federal highways within 1,000 feet of where the posted limit is reduced by 10 mph or more.

The bills all are in committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Mississippi in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor