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Senate debates tickets, prison approach

Earlier this month, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a police officer could cite someone for excessive speeding just by looking at a vehicle and estimating how fast it is moving.

Justices stated in their 5-1 decision that “a police officer’s unaided visual estimation of a vehicle’s speed is sufficient evidence to support a conviction for speeding,” as long as the officer is trained and certified by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy or a similar organization.

I have no doubt that the majority of law enforcement officers in Ohio are honest and well-trained and could estimate the speed a car is traveling, but I believe there should be verifiable proof for a driver to be issued a citation.

In our country, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In the days since the Supreme Court’s ruling many Ohioans have spoken out about the issue and called for legislative action to address it.

In response, State Sen. Tim Grendell and State Sen. Capri Cafaro introduced Senate Bill 280, a bipartisan proposal which would prohibit a police officer from ticketing a motorist for speeding without independent verification from a laser, radar or airborne speed reading device. I co-sponsored the bill.

Current law already allows for a person to be cited for reckless operation or for failure to control their vehicle if they are driving in an unsafe or threatening manner.

I think SB 280 makes sense. It will promote consistency and reliability in measuring drivers’ speed, while helping to ensure continued public confidence in the dedicated law enforcement officers who patrol Ohio’s roads.

Public safety is one of the primary responsibilities of government, and our law enforcement community does a tremendous job in their efforts to keep us safe. They are often the unsung heroes.

Other unsung heroes include the thousands of correctional officers who keep peace in Ohio’s prisons.

Many of these men and women, however, are concerned about a bill that was recently introduced in the Senate, which would privatize half our state’s prisons.

I do not think this plan makes sense and I cannot support it. I have visited prisons in the 17th Senate District, and I was very impressed with the work of the personnel in these institutions.

Ohio’s prison system is overcrowded, and at a time of limited state resources, the Legislature is exploring opportunities to handle prisoners in different ways that would help reduce the population and save money. But, mandating that half the prisons in our state be privatized would jeopardize public safety and is not worth any potential cost savings. Our state’s corrections employees are experienced, well-trained and are essential to maintaining stability in our prisons and keeping Ohioans safe.

I will continue to monitor these two very important issues as we head into the summer months. For more information, please visit the Ohio General Assembly website at www.legislature.state.oh.us.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District. He can be reached at Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or by phone at (614) 466-8156.