Lawmakers Put Brakes On County Radar

Don't expect to see County Sheriff's Deputies using radar to catch speeders anytime soon. Late Tuesday, the County Affairs Committee killed a bill that would have let sheriff's departments use radar guns to enforce speed laws just like police departments. Reacting to the news, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd told WLOX News the 70,000 county residents he's sworn to protect would be safer if his deputies could use radar.

Radar bills have died in the Legislature for years amid fears that sheriffs would set up speed traps as moneymakers. Only in Lowndes County, which got special legislation passed several years ago, can the sheriff and deputies use radar. Some lawmakers thought a radar bill would pass this year because it was routed through a committee with a chairman who supported the measure. In the past, radar bills have died in the House Transportation Committee.

Lawmakers heard emotional testimony Tuesday from an Adams County mother whose 18-year-old daughter died after being run down in traffic. Kay Warnock said she wanted sheriffs to use radar detectors to improve public safety. Her daughter, crossing guard Casey Schrock, was killed Jan. 9 on a road near Morgantown Elementary outside Natchez. ``I don't want her death to be in vain. I want something to come of it,'' Warnock, sobbing and holding a photo of her daughter, told committee members Tuesday.

Department of Public Safety statistics show there were 189 fatal crashes on Mississippi county roads in 2000. Some of those crashes might have resulted in multiple deaths, officials said. Harrison County records indicate that last year 22 people died in accidents on county roads compared to 18 within the city limits. The committee rewrote part of the bill to let only sheriffs in the 12 largest counties use radar. Even with that provision in it, the bill still failed on a 9-7 vote. Rep. Percy Maples, R-Lucedale, one of the committee members who voted to kill the bill, said he has heard no public outcry to let sheriffs use radar. ``The few people I have heard speak of it in coffee shops, they're against it,'' Maples said.

There is a radar bill pending in the state Senate, but it's not expected to pass out of committee either.