By Mark Scolforo, The Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Independent testing of handheld radar guns used by the Pennsylvania State Police has determined they work properly, according to a report released Friday.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering study contradicted claims the Decatur Genesis guns were producing erroneous readings that could have led to unwarranted speeding tickets.
"The bottom line is that our radar units are accurate. And if you receive a citation based on a radar reading, you can be sure that it is an accurate reading," said state police spokesman Jack Lewis.
The $18,000 study was prompted by an anonymous complaint lodged earlier this year with the Office of Inspector General, the state police said. The department was responding to reports that stationary objects were measured at high speeds.
The engineering study concluded that when the guns are activated to gauge the speed of vehicles, they function properly.
"Spurious" false readings can be produced by the guns, the report said, but it was unlikely such false readings would prevent a trained trooper from accurately measuring motorists' speeds.
The computer electronics in 2003 Ford Crown Victoria LTD police cruisers may be responsible for some of those spurious readings, but such signals are of low strength, the report said.
"In the non-sterile environment such as the radar gun pointing at a moving automobile as a target, it is our opinion that the miscellaneous signals indicated throughout this report are surmounted (overcome) by the reflected signal returning to the radar gun," according to the report.
State law dictates that all radar equipment be tested every 60 days, and the state police also require troopers to conduct their own accuracy tests at the start and end of each speed-enforcement detail.
About 540 Decatur Genesis handheld radar units are in use, along with about 250 other types of radar guns.
The former supervisor of radar-gun maintenance for the department, John T. "Tim" Shingara, testified in a Cumberland County speeding case last year that several troopers reported problems with the guns in 2002. As a result, the state police temporarily suspended use of the guns and reinstated them last December.
Shingara is suing three supervisors in the department, claiming his job was threatened as a result of that testimony. His federal lawsuit is pending.