Just about all county Sheriff departments in Mississippi are banned from using radar guns to catch speeders. The law was enacted decades ago, after counties were suspected of setting up speed traps and cashing in on the fines. One local sheriff is pushing hard to change the old law.
For Pearl police officer Tyson Burleson, the use of his radar gun is essential for enforcing the speed limit.
"We're able to get vehicles to slow down when they see us," said Officer Burleson.
By law, Mississippi police departments in cities with populations of 2,000 or more are allowed to use radar guns. But the state legislature took that privilege away from county Sheriff's department's decades ago. That means if you're speeding along a county road like Highway 468 in Rankin County, neither the Sheriff nor his deputies can use radar to stop you.
"To me it's sort of like telling everybody else in the state that you can use a semi-automatic pistol, but Sheriff's officers have to use a revolver," said Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey.
Sheriff Bailey wants lawmakers to draft a bill allowing radar in counties with populations of at least 95,000. He'd also like consideration for a radar pilot program in Rankin County, where 75 percent of accidents are speed related.
Statistics indicate that for every 100 miles of county roads, Rankin County ranks 8th when it comes to accident related injuries and 13th when it comes to traffic fatalities across Mississippi.
"I just don't understand why anybody would be against this, just another tool to slow people down," said Sheriff Bailey.
There are opponents. Democratic Minority Leader Bobby Moak (Bogue Chitto) doesn't think radar is a top priority for the legislature or constituents this year.
"They're worried about burglary about their children and safety, they're worried about safety at school," said Representative Moak.
Representative Moak also questions whether it's "a way the counties are going to use this to simply put money in the coffers"
Sheriff Bailey assures the public that radar guns wouldn't be used to set speed traps and get money. Safety is his number one concern.
To save money, Sheriff Bailey says if a radar pilot program is granted to Rankin County, his deputies would share just five or six radar guns. Also, for the first six months, those caught speeding would receive warnings, not tickets. Currently, the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department is the only one in the state allowed to use radar.
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