editorial - mail - 2/23/01

February 23, 2001

Are Pennsy state police ignoring the interstates?

The one thing police officers seldom do is criticize one another, so when it does happen, it's quite an event. We hope that citizens and elected officials will look below the surface of this item on the Pennsylvania State Police, to see if any of the charges that have surfaced are valid.

The story broke after The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obtained a Feb. 5 memo sent to the state police command staff by Lt. Col. Thomas K. Coury, who said that the level on enforcement activity on the interstate highways passing through the state has been "unacceptable" for the past four years.

To correct what he sees as a "lack of patrols on the interstates," Coury called on area and troop commanders to devise plans to promote "traffic safety and aggressive enforcement" on Pennsylvania's interstate highways.

Asked whether that will mean more tickets for motorists traveling on the interstate, an agency employee said that's not the goal.


Jack Lewis, a state police spokesman, said that the idea is to get more patrols in place. If the officers are on the road and in a position to observe more violations, then Lewis said that more tickets might be the result.

The Coury memo also referred to Troop S, a special unit of the state police that patrolled the interstates exclusively until it was disbanded in 1997. The goal is disbanding it was to reduce the number of supervisors by returning officers to their own units.

Are the statistics inaccurate, as some critics say? Police spokesman Lewis says that Lt. Col. Coury was made aware of that possibility when he was writing the memo.

The first task, then, is to verify the accuracy of the numbers Coury used to claim that enforcement activity is down. But if he's correct, and there's a lack of enforcement on the interstates, then his plan to step it up should quickly go forward.

We support enforcement of the laws as they stand. Rural speed limits on the interstates have been raised to the point where no one who is caught exceeding them can claim they're being treated unfairly. In truth, speeders endanger many lives.

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