Let’s Improve Officer Safety

Hi Will –

I read with some interest the article in Globe regarding the deaths of several Police Officers on traffic enforcement duty (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/07/18/trooper_struck_during_stop). This illustrates the danger of exceptional conditions on the highway. As long as traffic moves smoothly and everyone follows the rules, things generally work out fine, but anyone who’s ever been stuck on 128 an hour due to a tire changer will appreciate that the flow of traffic in the Boston area is constantly approaching the point of saturation, increasing the possibility of dangerous situations. The new law, enacted to require drivers to slow when passing emergency vehicles reflects this reality by codifying something we should instinctively know by heart.

That being said, I was pleased to see that the police will be examining best practices from other jurisdictions in an effort to improve office safety. With that in mind, I’d like to make a simple proposal to improve safety: Follow existing best practice as documented by manufacturers of LASER guns.

In the past several weeks I have observed on at least three occasions, officers with patrol cars parked at an angle on the shoulder of major highways, such as Rt 2, with the nose of their cruisers protruding into the traffic lane!

They do so in order to aim their LASER gun. LASER, unlike RADAR, requires significant operator involvement and cannot be operated without direct line-of-sight. Clearly, this means it cannot be operated from the driver’s seat of a car without turning the car 90 degrees to traffic. In the instructions to most of these units, officers are cautioned to “stand behind their cars”, using them as defense against traffic dangers. To place the nose of their cruiser into traffic because they want to sit comfortably in the air-conditioned driver seat is simply not good Police work. However, as illustrated in the Globe article, even standing behind their cruiser is no guarantee of safety – standing by the side of a major highway is the last place you want to be.

So here’s my advice – ditch the LASER guns. They’re not safe for the troopers, and as any RADAR manufacture study will show you, the “production numbers” (number of tickets written per hour) are far inferior to RADAR units.

In addition, LASER guns are about double or triple the price of RADAR and have a shorter range so there’s really no reason for the State Police to even be using them. They waste our tax dollars and place officers in dangerous situations.  My heart goes out to the family of the five officers who have died on the road in the past five weeks. Police Officers have enough dangers to contend with. There’s no need to increase their risk by making them do LASER patrol..

Sorry Will, I did not know who to address this to and you’re my “catch all” for governmental issues and irrelevant rants. Feel free to pass along as appropriate to the responsible authorities.

10 replies on “Let’s Improve Officer Safety”

  1. Thanks Will! Geeze 4:30 in the morning – you’re either a very early riser or it was a late night! Thanks for the reply.

    PS Response to Jason – I’m not sure if you are being sarcastic or not, but take a look at “POP” RADAR technology in Google. Then look for LASER JAMMER. The police have a bevy of technologies on their side to outwit RADAR detectors – instant-on RADAR, POP RADAR, etc. And while the manufacturers claim LASER is not detectable, it’s far more easy to defeat than RADAR – As Car & Driver showed a simple infrared light mounted on the front of the vehicle is enough to render all LASER guns useless.

    LASER jammers are
    (a) far less expensive
    (b) far less complex and
    (c) far more legal than RADAR jammers.

    LASER jammers require a simple mounting on your front license plate. The units run for $100-$300 and are VERY effective.

    RADAR Jammers on the other hand are
    (a) illegal (not because they jam RADAR, but simply because they broadcast radio waves without a license, a $10,000 FCC fine)
    (b) require signficant technical knowledge and generall require two emitters (front and back) and
    (c) are pretty pricey.

    I was not really commenting on “Cops” V. “Speeders”. If you want a simple solution to THAT issue, just set reasonable, engineering-based (85th percentile) speed limits, ban all detectors and jammers and then focus Police on operational vehicle spacing as a parameter of safety rather than speed. Or, simply go live in Germany and much of the Europe where they do this already and have much safer highways.

    My point was that there’s simply no advantage to using LASAR guns – AND they’re signficantly more expensive – AND you get better performance with RADAR – AND the operational parameters of LASER are such that it encourages dangerous behaviour on the operator’s part – presenting danger to him/herself and the general motoring public who deserve to resonably expect that cars are not parked jutting out into traffic on major highways.

    If the officer wants to follow best-practice and park his/her cruiser well out of the traffic lane, stand behind it and be relatively safe (dont’ park around blind corners, etc), then the danger aspect is mittigated. BUT then there’s still the cost factor.

    The fact is that Police do a better job, are personally safer and don’t pose a safety hazard to the motoring public (you and me) with RADAR owing to the inherent operational parameters of the technology.

    Net-net — with RADAR we’re safer (no obstructions in the roadway), they’re safer (they’re not targets for the next drunk driver), production is improved (more money) and the units cost less (money saved). To me it seems like a no-brainer.

    FYI – Apparently I’m not the only one — This is why LTI technology, one of the makers of LASER technology that Massachusetts uses, has teetered on the brink on bankruptcy for many years and is the subject of several shareholder lawsuits. The concept of LASER enforcement is fatally flawed.

      1. Here’s a summary of the response that we got from the Undersecretary for Public Safety : EOPSS has passed the comment on to MSP so that they can review whether the placement of their cruisers when using laser equipment either impedes traffic or imposes a danger to the public or the police but he is not going to have the MSP respond directly to the blog.

        In other words, “thanks for your input.”

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