A plan to allow the Idaho State Police to use unmarked patrol cars on the state’s highways and interstates isn’t a response to slumping ticket counts, the agency confirmed Wednesday.
ISP communications manager Teresa Baker told IdahoReporter.com, the proposal, backed by Gov. Butch Otter’s administration, will address aggressive and distracted driving.
“No, the number of citations do not have anything to do with the need for unmarked cars,” Baker said. “The public safety aspect and the increase in fatalities due to distracted and aggressive driving is what is motivating us to find a solution.”
In an earlier message, Baker cited a large slump in tickets written by ISP officers over the past few years.
In 2005, officers wrote 55,990 tickets, the low-point for citations in the last 10 years. 2010 was the high point the same time period, when officers wrote 76,445 tickets. Citations slid to 62,755 in 2015, the second-lowest total during the same period.
Baker attributed the spike in citations through the past decade to extra patrols through the Treasure Valley, which were funded by road bonds.
She said the agency based its unmarked-car plan, which is opposed by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, on information gleaned from around the country.
“We looked at what has been successful in other states and many other states have found this works,” Baker said.
ISP plans to pitch the plan in the first few weeks of the 2016 legislative session, which starts next Monday in Boise. If lawmakers approve the bill and Otter signs it, ISP will work to educate the public before deploying the covert cop cars.
Yesterday, Idaho Freedom Foundation President Fred Birnbaum told KTVB, the plan puts drivers at risk because unmarked cars are easier for criminals to impersonate police.
Kathy Griesmyer, public policy strategist for the ACLU of Idaho, signaled displeasure with the plan via Twitter.
Griesmyer tweeted, “As if law enforcement needs more power for surveilling the public”.
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