Police union opposes speed limit bill

Emergency vehicles would face penalties for speeding in city

March 27, 2000|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Troubled by collisions that result from police cars responding to emergencies, City Councilwoman Lisa Joi Stancil wants to impose penalties on officers who violate traffic regulations and motorists who fail to yield to emergency vehicles.

Under the legislation awaiting a public hearing, police officers could not exceed the maximum speed for city streets. Officers who violate the proposed ordinance or motorists who fail to yield to emergency vehicles would be fined $1,000 and be subject to a court-ordered driver's education course.

The legislation, which a police union leader has called too restrictive, also would require pedestrians to yield to police vehicles that are responding to emergencies, or they would face the same penalties.

A hearing on the legislation has not been scheduled.

Stancil said she decided to introduce the bill last week because of incidents such as the crash this month in which Officer Jamie A. Roussey was killed. Traffic investigators determined that Roussey ran through a red light when his police Jeep Cherokee was struck by a Dodge Neon driven by Calvin Thompson Jr., 20.

In 1998, two accidents involving officers speeding to assist colleagues resulted in the deaths of Officer Harold J. Carey and pedestrian Martin Cook.

"We really need to work on this because lives are being lost," Stancil said. "I wanted to create a very stiff penalty."

Officer Gary McLhinney, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said the union will oppose the legislation because the requirement that officers stay within the speed limit is too restrictive.

"It's not good law enforcement, and it's contrary to state law," McLhinney said.

The Police Department has regulations for officers responding to emergencies.

Police vehicles can travel at a maximum speed of 10 miles over the posted speed limit, which is 25 or 30 mph on most city streets. Cruisers responding to emergencies with lights and sirens activated are required to stop at every stop sign and red light to ensure the intersection is clear before proceeding.

High-speed pursuits are strictly forbidden, but officers are allowed to follow a fleeing car at a reasonable speed.

"The current regulations are sufficient," McLhinney said. "There are not too many opportunities in a congested city where police officers can get up to high speeds.

"The real problem is people don't obey the law in getting out of the way."

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