HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-A gun, a badge, and zero power on the interstate. State lawmakers say that's reality for small-town police officers in Alabama, with some now pushing for a bill that would allow those departments to ticket interstate speeders in the name of public safety.
Senate Bill 24 would repeal existing state law that bans police officers from towns of 19,000 or less from patrolling the interstate, the result of a 1996 bill championed by former State Senator Lowell Barron.
Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) is co-sponsoring the repeal bill. Orr said the current law stigmatizes small-town cops as second-class officers, and was the result of a personal grudge held by Barron. Law enforcement pulled the former Senate president over in rural towns on two separate occasions in the 1990's after Barron's vehicle registered speeds of more than 90 miles per hour.
"The law was originally put in because a state senator got mad," said Orr. "He [Barron] wanted to do something about it, did do something about it...If you've got the city limits encompassing an interstate, why shouldn't they [small town police departments] be allowed to go within their city limits or police jurisdiction."
Sen. Orr said the proposed repeal is especially needed in light of recent cutbacks for Alabama State Troopers, who have been stretched increasingly thin across interstates and state highways.
"The state troopers need the support and could use the support out on the roadways," said Orr. "If we have laws on the books they ought to be enforced."
Critics argue that repealing the current law would pave the way for unwanted speed traps across the state. The main sponsor of the repeal bill is Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville). Lawmakers will review the legislation when they return to Montgomery in February.