What are the differences between radars and lasers used by Florida police?
Answer: So there are a bunch of different manufacturers that use radar and laser across the country. In the state of Florida, in order for you as a police officer to use—or as a department—to use a particular type of radar, they have to be approved, they have to be an approved speed-measurement device under Florida statute. Because if it’s not an approved speed-measurement device, then they do not have the ability to use that in court to try and get, to try and convict somebody. So, radars can be used both stationary and moving. Lasers have to be used stationary—an officer cannot be moving and using a laser. It has to be used in a stationary position. So, the most common, you know if we look at the highway patrol, for example, they use a dual stalker radar. And the reason it’s called dual is because it has both a front antenna and a rear antenna. So the officer can clock somebody going away from them, coming towards them, or even coming up, as they come up behind them, if they’re driving in an unmarked car, maybe the person doesn’t recognize them to be a police officer, they have the ability to be able to clock them in their rear antenna and get a reading.Now, in the state of Florida, in order to for them to issue a citation, the statute requires, the administrative code requires they make a visual estimation of somebody’s speed—that’s the first thing. And then, if they determine through their visual estimation that the person is traveling above the posted speed limit, the radar and/or laser is supposed to confirm or deny the eye-dar, if you will, which is the first step in issuing, in order for them to issue a citation, they have to make that visual estimation of the posted speed. Now, in addition, before being used for law enforcement purposes, every single shift, in the state of Florida, an officer has to calibrate their speed measurement device.
Now it’s much different—radars, they use tuning forks to calibrate it. They strike it, they have these predetermined tuning forks that have a speed on it. It’s usually 15 or 50, something like that, 35, they strike it on the steering wheel and hold it up in front of the radar unit and they get a speed, and that speed should be consistent with the tuning fork. So that’s typically how they will calibrate a radar device. Laser devices, they use—also, this is governed by Florida administrative code—they use markers and they determine with a sight alignment and a visual alignment whether or not the laser seems to be working. And this is all in addition to internal calibrations. Each unit, whether radar or laser, has internal calibration checks. And that’s the first step, before they do any of the tuning forks or anything else.
In addition, a speed measurement device such as pacing, which is by someone’s speedometer, they have to have the speedometer calibrated every six months. The stopwatch that the pilot uses, that also has to be calibrated every six months, and every radar and laser, not only does it have to be calibrated before the shift and at the end of the shift, but it has to be sent back for a bench test every six months to make sure that it’s working within the confines of what is set out in the statute. So, that has to be done every six months.