Effort to ban unmarked police vehicles fails
By Brock Vergakis
Police can continue to use unmarked vehicles to pull over speeders after an attempt to eliminate them failed to gain support in the Senate on Wednesday.
Sen. Bill Hickman, R-St. George, failed to persuade his colleagues that local governments are abusively using unmarked vehicles to catch speeders and rake in revenue from traffic tickets.
He also said drivers' safety is put at risk when police use an unmarked vehicle because nobody can be sure whether the person pulling them over is an officer.
"There have been some situations where people have been stopped late at night thinking they were being stopped by an officer's vehicle when in fact they were not. This is simply an attempt to restore some sanity to that," Hickman said.
But his colleagues weren't buying his arguments.
"I think prostitute decoys ought to wear badges. I think narcs ought to dress in uniform. I think all people who infiltrate al-Qaida should have ... U.S. Army uniforms," said Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights. "The only difference between those ridiculous examples is the red herring argument."
Hickman's efforts to eliminate unmarked vehicles came during debate over Senate Bill 17, which proposes a host of changes to the state's traffic laws. Hickman proposed amending the bill — which wasn't voted on Wednesday — to require police officers to use the same EX license plates other government vehicles do and prohibit unmarked vehicles from routinely patrolling state highways.
Sen. Jon Greiner, R-Ogden, was visibly frustrated with Hickman's proposal. Greiner is Ogden's police chief.
"I don't know how to even get started on this one," he said. "The reality is there is always a need to pull somebody over without the full markings. ... I would venture to say the need for unmarked cars without EX plates far exceeds the need for marking it to avoid a traffic citation."
Greiner said out of each $50 ticket that's issued, cities typically only get about $7.50 of that. The rest goes to state government and courts.
But for Hickman, that was prime evidence in his favor.
"It's not minimal to those rural counties who are using it as a revenue source. I assure you that counties and some cities are using it as a revenue source. Even though they have to share it with the state, it still helps pay for their courts and so on," he said.
Hickman's amendment was easily defeated during a voice vote.