OKLAHOMA CITY — Police chiefs throughout the state stated they oppose a lawmaker’s plan to ban municipalities from utilizing unmarked autos to conduct visitors stops.
Using autos that don’t have distinctive exterior placards or stickers or that use subdued markings are essential to stopping little one abductions, armed theft suspects, and drug smuggling. Additionally they assist scale back accidents, extra rushing, and deter street rage, police chiefs stated.
Don Sweger, Guthrie Police Chief, stated using unmarked automobiles is a “important software,” and whereas individuals could also be on their greatest conduct when a marked unit is current, the counter argument is that folks behave higher total after they can’t be certain an officer is close by.
“Legal guidelines are made so that folks know and might comply with the principles always, not simply when a police car is in your rearview,” Sweger stated.
State Sen. Cody Rogers, R-Tulsa, stated he intends that the provisions of Senate Invoice 1109 be focused at metropolis police departments which have designated visitors divisions with unmarked items equivalent to Oklahoma Metropolis, Tulsa, Edmond and Norman. He stated the purpose is that departments wouldn’t be capable to use unmarked automobiles on a routine foundation, however might use them in particular circumstances, equivalent to DUI enforcement or if a police automobile breaks down.
Nonetheless, the present wording within the invoice encompasses all municipalities. It states that “it shall be illegal for any municipal police division to make use of any car which isn’t clearly marked as a legislation enforcement car for visitors enforcement.”
It additionally requires all graphics or markings on legislation enforcement autos to be in contrasting colours to a car, and notes that the change is in response to an elevated variety of individuals impersonating legislation enforcement officers utilizing unmarked automobiles.
“What we must be doing is public security, not conceal and search,” Rogers stated. “That’s the issue I’ve. I don’t perceive why we now have unmarked police automobiles sitting out attempting to challenge tickets as a substitute of doing public security and slowing individuals down.”
Rogers stated the invoice reverts state legislation again to pre-2005, when municipalities didn’t have the authority to make use of unmarked autos. He additionally stated he believes that extreme rushing and reckless driving have elevated in Tulsa since cities have been allowed to begin utilizing unmarked autos.
“I don’t assume that the method that we’re utilizing now’s working,” Rogers stated. “I feel we’ve acquired to maneuver on and search for one thing completely different.”
He stated individuals are likely to pay extra consideration and have higher driving habits when marked police automobiles are current. He’s additionally involved that unmarked autos are getting used for income era versus public security.
Rogers stated a constituent requested him to run the invoice, and as phrase has unfold, Rogers stated he’s obtained numerous calls and emails supporting him.
“The one pushback I get is from municipalities, police departments,” he stated.
Tecumseh Police Chief J.R. Kidney, who’s a member of the Oklahoma Affiliation of Chiefs of Police, stated he serves on the group’s legislative committee and based mostly on the suggestions they’ve obtained, it seems the group might oppose it. His division doesn’t have unmarked patrol automobiles doing visitors enforcement, however he stated he sees a particular want for them for drug enforcement and in areas the place there are a number of accidents and speeders.
“A number of instances these unmarked automobiles get in there and implement these pace zones, and actually make a distinction in slowing visitors down and easing up on a few of the accidents,” Kidney stated.
He stated state statute already requires that officers working from an unmarked patrol automobile be in an identifiable uniform.
Kidney additionally stated if Rogers or his constituents are getting stopped by these autos, they’ll merely examine the uniform to ensure an officer is in compliance with Oklahoma state statutes or ask to see an officer’s fee card.
Ok.D. Rowell, Chickasha police chief, stated she’s against the thought as proposed, however is hopeful there’s some frequent floor if the legislation is really crucial.
She stated her division has a few autos which have “ghost graphics,” however stated they’re positively not “a ticket-revenue city.” She stated the good thing about utilizing subdued graphics is that they’re not as simple to identify when following up on calls equivalent to home violence incidents.
“Most individuals whenever you see a Charger, everyone begins seeking to see, ‘Is it police?’ But when it’s acquired the subdued graphic on it, it’s not screaming police proper on the market,” Rowell stated. “I discover that it’s much more useful gizmo for us every time we’re answering requires service.”
She stated anyone utilizing a car with subdued graphics has lights within the windshield, within the grill and again window and have to be carrying a uniform. She stated whereas officers use the autos for on a regular basis patrol and aren’t sitting there working visitors, they do additionally use them for visitors enforcement functions.
An Oklahoma Metropolis Police Division spokesman stated they’d no touch upon the proposed laws, however stated they depend on unmarked autos for issues like visitors enforcement and drug interdiction. Every unit has lights, sirens and a uniformed officer on the wheel.
Norman police not have a visitors enforcement division, stated Robert Wasoski, president of the Norman Fraternal Order of Police and retired police officer.
He stated that when he labored for Norman, he did work within the visitors unit for a number of years. He drove a black and white that was marked, however didn’t have an overhead mild bar on it. Wasoski stated he in all probability averaged about 18 to 19 citations a day and made different stops that didn’t lead to a ticket.
“Typically an unmarked unit is sweet at catching people who find themselves not paying consideration,” he stated, including that whereas tickets do generate income that was not the objective of Norman’s unit.
“Once I labored, it was to handle areas that have been of concern to the general public and to vary driving conduct and scale back violations that have been hazardous,” Wasoski stated.
He stated he’s not heard any uptick within the variety of people who find themselves impersonating cops both in Norman or statewide.
“If something, it’s getting more durable and more durable to get individuals to use to be police,” Wasoski stated. “I don’t know why they might wish to impersonate one given at present’s social local weather and all that stuff. I’d assume that will in all probability be extra hazardous.”
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and web sites. Attain her at email@example.com.