Is Kiowa a speedtrap?
By Doug Russell
Officials are investigating whether the city of Kiowa can be considered a speed trap, the News-Capital has learned.
Trooper Kera Philippi, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, said, when asked of the issue, “I can’t comment on ongoing investigations.”
The community has not been designated as a speedtrap as of Friday, Philippi said.
Under the law, the commissioner of public safety is required to investigate all allegations that a community police department is acting as a speed trap.
How is that determined?
“Any time a community gets more than 50 percent of its operating budget from traffic tickets, it’s possible that it’s a speed trap,” Philippi said. After an initial investigation by the DPS, information is sent to the attorney general’s office for a determination, she said.
If the attorney general or his representative find that a speed trap is likely, the DPS restricts a department’s ability to issue traffic citations along a highway.
“This is the second time we’ve been looked at,” said Kiowa Police Chief Steve Pebworth. “We don’t even start writing tickets until someone’s going 12 or more miles over the speed limit. Anything else and they just get a warning.”
Kiowa Mayor Danny Drake said that state officials took copies of all the tickets and warnings the police department issued recently. “My understanding is they’re doing (the investigation) because of a complaint,” he said, adding that the city has not received word yet on the results of the investigation.
Pebworth said he believes the complaint came from a disgruntled former employee.
“Safety comes first,” Drake said. “We’ve got a school, convenience stores, cafes and citizens — it’s hard to get across the highway and safety comes first to anything.”
Pebworth said the police department uses plainly-marked vehicles that park in areas where they can be seen. “A lot of people slow down just from seeing us,” he said. “That’s what we’re wanting them to do.”
In addition, the department’s Web site tells people the specific locations where police are enforcing traffic laws more stringently than in other areas.
If that’s not enough, Pebworth said, “Call us and we’ll tell you where we’re located.”
The city police department used to enforce traffic laws all the way from the city limits to the Atoka County line. No more, Pebworth said. “We’ve deannexed that area, so the main thing we concentrate on is in the city limits to where the speed limit hits 60 mph.”
“I don’t think we’ve got anything to worry about,” Drake said.
“All our officers are trying to do is make sure everyone is safe.”
For more information on the Kiowa PD, or to find the areas where enforcement is especially stringent, go to www.kiowapd.org.