Dalton Gardens Republican Sen. Steve Vick wonders if allowing the Idaho State Police to deploy unmarked cars during highway patrol could worsen law enforcement efforts on Gem State highways.
Vick, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, told IdahoReporter.com he’s unsure if the agency needs the covert cars.
“It’s always been my understanding that the reason police cars are marked is to help people know law enforcement has a presence on the roads,” Vick said.
Allowing ISP unmarked cars, he added, could have a “negative effect” on policing efforts.
“I don’t like the idea of trying to trap people in bad behavior,” Vick asserted.
He’s not the only lawmaker skeptical of the plan ISP will present sometime during the 2016 session, which opens Monday at the Capitol. House Transportation Chairman Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, voiced concerns about the ISP requests.
“I'm very curious to see their reasoning for it,” Palmer said. The chairman added that he hasn’t had any talks with ISP officials regarding the plan.
When the request hits Palmer’s committee, ISP officials might face an uphill battle. Palmer, who wouldn’t predict how his panel would handle the issue, signaled deep skepticism.
“I can't think of a reason they would need [unmarked cars],” Palmer said.
The legislation, which isn’t finalized yet, says the covert cars will allow ISP “to address the issue of dangerous driving behaviors that are resulting in an increase in fatalities and injuries on Idaho's highways, interstates and roadways.”
ISP said it will use the unmarked cars to target “aggressive, impaired, reckless and inattentive drivers as well as those texting while driving.”
"The marked patrol car is a billboard, a moving billboard if you will, that puts everybody on their best behavior," said Wills.
Idaho Freedom Foundation Vice President Fred Birnbaum told the KTVB that ISP already has enough tools to enforce traffic laws, and unmarked cars open dangerous doors.
To allow unmarked cars would allow criminals to easily impersonate police. A person who seeks to do harm would just need to get a set of blue and red lights, put them on a plain vehicle, and pull people over. Birnbaum said.
Regardless of their skepticism, Palmer and Vick pledged to give the plan a fair hearing.
“I’m just about always willing to listen,” Vick said.
City and county police are already allowed to use unmarked cars for patrol duties. ISP can use the secretive cars for investigations, but not traffic enforcement.
Note: The Idaho Freedom Foundation publishes IdahoReporter.com.