Alex Teach on the beatalex teach on the beat
Officer Alex busts the county commissioners for backing down
THE BRIEFEST OF RESEARCH WILL INDICate that it is a technology used to make high-resolution maps with applications in everything from archaeology to forestry (and contour mapping in particular), but to the local Chattanooga area? Its primary purpose is clearly to piss everyone off to no end.
Last week the Hamilton County Commission voted five to four in favor of the sheriff’s office getting two new handheld LIDAR guns, but such was the outcry from constituents that the very next day two of those commissioners voting for the purchase opted to change their minds and vote against it. (“My butt’s chewed up,” said District 9 Commissioner Chester Bankston. I never had an issue with him before, but I really like him now just for saying that as an elected official.) The fact this wasn’t publicly advertised on the agenda (as I understand it) also didn’t help.
Without getting too far into it, the LIDAR system is essentially a camera attached to the radar gun. They are officer-manned, not automated on a pole or on the back deck of an SUV as preferred by other local agencies. Basically, it allows an officer to personally observe and record a passing speed violator and instead of entering traffic, pulling them over, and writing one citation every 30 minutes or so, he or she can scientifically record the speed of the observed violators. Tickets are mailed to the address the car is registered to. Or even more simplified, you get more bang for each officer’s buck. Instead of one ticket? He or she is generating dozens in the same space of time. A private company then processes that photograph, handles the mailing, and in return, gets half of the citation amount, generally $50. The company keeps the profit, and the county puts their half into a driving program to teach driver safety to the masses.
Here’s the rub: People say this denies them the right to face their accuser as afforded by law. The same people don’t realize that that is in a criminal matter; these tickets are being handled in civil court, a distant cousin to criminal court where the rules are different.
They also say having your photograph taken from the side of the road violates their right to privacy. The same people that think they have a right to privacy in the middle of a four-lane highway (or one lane for that matter) don’t complain when they are required to drive on that road with a picture of themselves on a little card, but “hiding in the middle of an open roadway” in a vehicle intentionally made partially of glass make sense to them, which means they are NOT people you want to engage in conversation about the stupidity of such a belief.
There are more arguments but I think this covers the basics. That said? Both are quickly and factually disproven but both lead to a final truth that is undeniable: It pisses them off to be caught speeding and if it’s going to be inconvenient for them, it damn well better be inconvenient for the officer. If they would just say that, it would be easier to get behind them on the topic.
Sheriff Jim Hammond is a source of much of my best material, but in this case I think he really was just trying to make better use of his resources (much like his demotion of [insert rank here] Ron Parson to a rank he never had to test or interview for…a whole other story of course). That said? The public has spoken, and they are PISSED.
My take? I think that getting pulled over one at a time is the way to go. You don’t learn a lesson by getting a letter mailed to you. You learn a lesson by getting the fear of law put into you starting with your rear view mirror letting your bladder know you have been “caught”, and the interaction that follows as you race to remember where your insurance card is and if you have any empty beer cans in the floorboard (etc., etc.) before the Smokey even gets there. (I’ve had tickets, too, boys and girls.)
That said? You know what happens when I drive down certain stretches of Highway 58, Highway 153, or East Brainerd Road? I slow down. That’s right—those mail-in tickets have done the one thing they are designed to do: They change driving habits. The LIDAR guns are less consistent in some locations and therefore not as helpful in my opinion, but it does work.
But for all the arguments against, it’s the one “for” it that I like the best from a former Chattanooga police chief to the Tennessee General Assembly: “The program is a voluntary one in that motorists have a choice on whether they will violate traffic laws.”
In short? Slow down and you won’t even have to worry about it. Well, unless you live out in the county now. Purchase: CANCELED, with extreme prejudice.