Chat about speeding tickets and road safety with Lawrence Police Sgts. Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers

July 10, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers

Lawrence Police Sgts. Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers will take your questions about speeding and traffic safety.


Good afternoon. This is Dennis Anderson, managing editor of the Lawrence Journal-World. Our guests today are Lawrence Police Sgts. Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers. They will be discussing, among other topics, speeding tickets and road safety. Welcome, sergeants.

Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers:

Thanks. It's a pleasure to be here.


We have several questions from readers. I'll just get started.


I was on a highway in the Springfield/Branson area over the weekend and noticed multiple big signs in the areas where road construction is occurring. The signs say "Hit A Worker - $10,000 Fine - Lose Your License" about using that deterrent instead of the labor involved in issuing so many tickets in areas like the Kasold construction?

Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers:

Kansas does not currently have a similar law. It is important to remember that police officers do not make the laws, we merely enforce them. Education of the public about current work zones is started well in advance of the project's beginning and the officers routinely issue warnings for the first several days of the project. Signage alone has not been shown to deter speeding in construction zones, but we would certainly be open to other means of protecting construction workers.


If I get a ticket for going 10 miles over the speed limit and I qualify for diversion, what would the fine/penalty be? Thanks!

Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers:

Diversion or plea bargaining of traffic citations is within the discretion of the prosecutor. If the citation was issued in Lawrence by a Lawrence or University of Kansas police officer, the Lawrence City prosecutor would be the office you would need to speak to. Their number is 832-6195.


#1 Many people believe that police officers have been given a traffic ticket quota they have to fill. I've heard LEO leaders respond saying that while no one has a set quota, there is a "normal" amount of tickets one can expect on average - which if not reached may mean the individual officer is not working as hard as supervisors would like. Isn't that the same thing as having an unspoken quota?

#2 Does any of of the $ collected from tickets get returned to the Department's budget?

#3 Are the speeding signs posted where people cannot see/read them? If not, why do you think that people complain about unfairness after they get caught disobeying a posted speed sign?


The next question is actually three questions.

Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers:

Let's address your questions in the order that they were asked.

First, the Lawrence Police Department has no specific ticket quota for its officers. All patrol officers are expected to perform traffic enforcement to help ensure the safety of all members of the public. Police officers, like most other employees, are required to be accountable for their time. If the officer is not answering calls for service and is spending time doing traffic enforcement, the expectation is that some citations will be issued. In our experience, both as police officers and as members of the public, it is virtually impossible to spend much time on a public roadway and not see some substantial violations of the traffic laws.

Second, money from fines is returned to the City's general fund. The police department, like most other departments, receives money from the general fund. The police department only receives this money to the extent that any other department of the city receives monies from the general fund in the budget process. Increases and decreases in ticket revenue do not necessarily cause increases or decreases in the police department budget.

Last, traffic signs are posted pursuant to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and are meant to be seen by the public.


I live on a Barker Ave with loads of local traffic speeding. I notice a police presence on Massachusetts St but I have never seen a police officer on my street. As a concerned parent who can I get in touch to request a police presence to reduece the speeding? I am worried about the kids who live on the street and the speeding drivers, who many times have children with them. thanks!!!

Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers:

Complaint based enforcement is a significant part of what we do. Please call me, Sgt. Randy Roberts, at 832-7595 or call 832-7509 and ask for a patrol shift commander to express your specific concerns.


If you observe what appears to be a drunk driver on the road, what are the steps a citizen should take to report them? Thank you.

Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers:

This situation occurs frequently, at all hours of the day and night. We would suggest you call dispatch at 832-7509 or, if you are someplace where you do not know what the police department's number is, call 911. Try to get the best description of the vehicle, including the driver if possible, and the license plate number. Also, the location and direction of travel is important. If you are willing to identify youself it is helpful to the police and prosecutors. If you choose to follow the suspect vehicle, do so safely and provide the dispatcher with a description of your vehicle as well.

Once again, let me emphasize that you need to preserve your own safety first. Please do not do anything that puts you or other members of the public at risk.


What is the longest distance allowed from the moving vehicle for the radar to be used?
Thank you

Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers:

We believe that you are asking what the longest distance is that our technology can measure the speed of a moving vehicle at. There are many conditions that affect this answer including topography, weather, and traffic density. Especially with radar, steps must me taken to ensure that the vehicle that the operator intends to measure is the vehicle being measured. This limits its effective range in most circumstances. Lidar (laser radar) units have a much greater effective range extending into several thousands of feet in appropriate situations.


Where are the "speed traps" in Lawrence?

Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers:

If you are asking where officers enforce the traffic laws most frequently, you can expect to see more police presence in places with higher traffic volumes, places where citizens have asked for increased presence, around schools and construction zones, and areas that have higher numbers of accidents or the potential for a large number of accidents. Areas included would be intersections that are controlled by stop signs and stop lights.


Where are some of those places of enforcement currently located?

Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers:

You can expect to continue to see officers emphasizing enforcement of the streets that carry high volumes of traffic. Kasold, Clinton Parkway/23rd Street, Massachusetts Street, and Iowa Street are some examples. Not coincidentally, many of these streets also reflect the areas with the highest accident numbers in the City are located, for example 23rd and Iowa.


Is there a threshold over the speed limit at which officers start giving speeding tickets?

Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers:

An officer may issue a speeding ticket for any speed over the posted speed limit. With that being said, if a person were to check each citation issued by the members of the department, there would be few if any for just one or two miles over the speed limit. Each officer has the discretion to consider all the circumstances involved with a violation to determine whether to take enforcement action.


One thing I know that is commonly reported is that the police officers do not seem to obey the same traffic laws that others are expected to follow. We of course understand that certain rules are exempt when they are responding to calls, but what about when they are merely traveling? Are they given additional legal leeway in regards to speed, stop signs and U-Turns? If not, is anything being done about such abuse?

Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers:

If police officers are not responding to an emergency or attempting to stop a vehicle they should be following the same traffic laws as everyone else. If you observe a member of the police department driving in an unsafe or illegal manner, please call dispatch at 832-7509 and ask to speak with an on-duty shift supervisor. It would be helpful if you would have the exact location and time of the behavior in question available so that the officer in question can be identified. Also, if you see any other identification information such as unit numbers please note that as well.

The Department appreciates all feedback from the community.


We are out of time. I want to thank the readers for your questions. I also want to thank Sgts. Roberts and Fellers for your time and answers to the questions. I hope you will both join us again in the future.

Randy Roberts and Paul Fellers:

We appreciate the opportunity.


Ragingbear 10 years, 10 months ago

I see it all the time. Cops running signs. Turning on lights just long enough to go through a red light, exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 miles. I even saw them turn on their sirens for 3 blocks of traffic just to get through. Then turned it off and slowed down to the speed limit.

The police are to answer to us. They are here to protect and serve. As such they are to set the example.

Now, if only we can do something about them blatantly ignoring drunk drivers at 2am.

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