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Proposed Ohio bill wouldn't let officers eyeball drivers' speed

Bipartisan effort aimed at preventing the practice

By James Nash
The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS, Oh. — A week after the Ohio Supreme Court allowed police to ticket speeders based on visual evidence alone, three lawmakers announced bills that would prevent the practice.

An unusual bipartisan duo, state Sens. Timothy J. Grendell, R-Chesterland, and Capri S. Cafaro, D-Hubbard, introduced a bill that would require laser, radar or airborne speed readings to cite a driver for speeding. An aide to state Rep. Robert F. Hagan, D-Youngstown, said Hagan plans to submit a similar bill in the House.

On June 3, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 5-1 that properly trained police officers can gauge a vehicle's speed without the aid of electronic instruments.

Police agencies said they rarely, if ever, cite drivers for speed violations unless they have laser, radar or airplane readings of vehicle speed. The State Highway Patrol said its policy requires an electronic measurement before a driver can be cited.

Grendell said that while police might almost always use electronic speed gauges, the Supreme Court ruling could encourage some to abandon the practice. Grendell and Cafaro said their bill will ensure that all police departments adhere to the same guidelines.

"It puts a burden on police officers to do visual verification," said Grendell, a lawyer who leads the Criminal Justice Committee. "We have the technology so we might as well use it."

Cafaro, the Senate's Democratic leader, said in a statement: "When Ohio motorists are pulled over for speeding, there should be measurable proof rather than someone's estimate."

Representatives of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police and the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said properly trained and certified officers can estimate speed accurately enough to cite speeders, although the drivers can challenge them in court.

The ruling brought a tide of complaints from Ohioans, who said it could lead to arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement of speeding and other laws.

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