Laser radar ordinance shot down in Patterson City Council

PATTERSON, La. — An ordinance that would have allowed police to use handheld radar units to catch speeders in the city without having to chase vehicles failed due to lack of support from the council at its meeting Tuesday.

The council introduced the ordinance at its February meeting after first hearing a presentation from Mark Hutchinson of Blue Line Solutions Inc. of Athens, Tenn., on the laser radar units at the January meeting. The handheld radar units would have made it possible for officers to catch speeders by pointing the radar unit at a speeding vehicle, while taking a photo of the vehicle and registering the speed of the vehicle.

By using the device, officers would not have to chase vehicles at high speeds putting others on the road in danger, Police Chief Patrick LaSalle said. Officers still would have the option to stop speeders, he said.

The ordinance would have made the speeding violation captured with the laser radar units a civil violation instead of a criminal violation. Speeding is a criminal violation when an officer stops a vehicle and writes the driver a ticket.

Mayor Rodney Grogan stated in an email that “if the proposed ordinance was cleaned up and a better collection process is established, one could try it once again. But it would be a big gamble.”

Councilman Larry Mendoza motioned for the council to adopt the ordinance, but no other council members seconded the motion, so the ordinance failed. Mendoza said his “chief concern” is speeding along U.S. 90. “I think we need to use any and all means that we can to slow people down and observe the speed limit,” Mendoza said.

The civil violation fine would have been a $100 fine, which would be lower than the tickets are now, at $107, for going 10 mph more than the speed limit, LaSalle said.

Residents voiced their concerns about the proposed ordinance during the public hearing before Tuesday’s council meeting.

“Are you treading down a road to where you’re going to be using resources and manpower in a program that is not going to be collectable? Are you wasting time with this? That’s my point,” said resident Ed Jones.

Resident Wardell Johnson asked whether the system for catching speeders would be exclusively a civil system or could the city also use a criminal system.

LaSalle said the city would still have the authority to pursue criminal action if officers decided to make a physical traffic stop to write speeding tickets.

City attorney Russell Cremaldi stressed that the proposed ordinance only provided for civil penalties if the officer does not make a physical traffic stop and not criminal penalties, he said.

Cremaldi proposed several amendments to the ordinance including one that stated, “Deployment of any such system shall not be in a fixed, unmanned manner,” in response to some concerns over whether unmanned mobile radar units could be used. LaSalle also stressed that unmanned units would not have been used, LaSalle said.

“You absolutely have a speeding problem in Patterson,” LaSalle said. The police department is trying to slow people down and save lives, he said. The major concern in regard to speeding is along U.S. 90 through Patterson, he said.

In other business:

—Grogan gave notice that the council will hold a special call meeting at 5:30 p.m. April 30 at City Hall to take action on the demolition of the lot at 518 Leo St., a residence which was burned.

“The next step in the process is the ordinance calls for the City Council to have to make a decision on what, if anything, needs to be done with a building in position where it may need to be demolished or in need of repair,” Cremaldi said. The council will sit as the judge of that matter and evidence will be presented by the city to show what is wrong with the building and what needs to be done, Cremaldi said. Other parties, including a bank involved with the mortgage, will be allowed to come before the council and present evidence, he said.

—On April 27, the Wheelbarrow Farmer’s Market at 615 First St. in Patterson will open. There will be a ribbon cutting on April 27. There are 12 stalls at the market with 10 stalls still available for rent at a cost of $45 for a weekend. The market will start the first and third weekend of each month, on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Grogan said.

—A Black Bear Concerned Citizens Group is being formed, Grogan said. The group will come together to learn more about the city’s black bear issue, he said. The group will meet April 9, but Grogan said he would let the public know when he finds out the time and place of the meeting.

—The city changed the date of its Great American Cleanup from Saturday to April 13, “not only for the City of Patterson, but also around the parish,” Grogan said.

—LaSalle approved Patterson High School band’s request to have a can shake April 13 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the corner of Main and Catherine streets, to raise money to go to a state competition.

—Grogan asked the council to come up with a resolution to create a calendar where all requests for can shakes will be placed. He said he wanted to “put a cap” on the number of can shakes the city will allow.

—Grogan and LaSalle plan to set up self-defense training classes. They will meet April 9 at the training center on Park Street.

—The council declared an old fire truck surplus property, and will put it out for bid. The city got an estimate from a mechanic placing its value at $1,000.

—Grogan and Cremaldi announced the upcoming sale May 9 of nine adjudicated properties in the city to the high bidders after the 60-day notice of the intent to sell the property ends.

—The Cypress Sawmill Festival will start at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Kemper Williams Park. The money generated by the festival goes back into the community to help with the maintenance of the Louisiana State Museum in Patterson, Grogan said.

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