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"Radar Calibration"

Dear Editor,

Every state in the United States and Trust Territories requires by law to either annually or semi-annually send out every police radar unit in that departments inventory to an independent laboratory for a complete inspection and certification.

The purpose is quite obvious, we want to make sure that every piece of police radar being used be in proper working order so that mistakes are not made and speeding tickets not issued in error or unjustly. First you want an independent inspection performed which will assure the integrity of the inspection. We don't want the police to police themselves, which is why the law requires an independent laboratory conduct the inspections.

The instruction manual will include a page or two on inaccurate readings and how to avoid them. Through discovery, it can be determined if the manual is complete since it is a known fact that police departments tear out pages that discuss common radar screw ups from the radar manual. Common malfunctions and inaccurate readings are by hitting two vehicles in adjacent lanes especially if the officer is on the opposite lane of that particular vehicle, standing on the east bound lane while ticketing a vehicle heading west bound.

It is very important to determine if the radar was calibrated properly which would indicate if the radar was on automatic. The chances of registering the speed of the wrong car go way up when an officer points his radar unit on a busy lane and puts the radar on automatic.  Therefore the beam angle width means the unit could be picking up on of several cars going the same or even opposite directions. Thus, the importance of the police maintaining records and documentation of calibration of the radar units. And the best and highly recommended way for the police to calibrate their radar units is by using a tuning fork.  The use of a tuning fork is scientifically sound.  Again, police officers are required to keep records and documentation via their logs.

As a teacher, I feel compelled to share and educate all drivers in American Samoa of the "dark secret" within the police department.

According to "one" particular policeman, who testified recently in court, he was trained and certified in 2009, but did not possess his hard copy certificate to prove he was certified to operate a radar unit.  Why?  He does not have a certificate!  He blamed his "supervisor" for failing to follow-up with the manufacturer. What? Yes, American Samoa Department of Public Safety management, this particular police officer is on record blaming his supervisor.

So, we have police officers without proof that they are certified in using their radar units, issuing tickets to hundreds of drivers on island.  And yet, Federal guidelines and The International Chief of Police Association outline specific guidelines, and recommends that officers should be certified in the use and operation of police radar and/or laser.

However, in American Samoa, if you plan on fighting your speeding tickets in our local traffic court and you request the officer to show proof of his certification, don't bother, for the judge will deny your request and simply state, "he's testified that he was trained and certified";  if you plan on requesting the police officers records, documents or logs for proof of calibration, forget it, the prosecutor will argue that it is your word versus the police officers; if you plan on requesting the DPS manual for radar training, forget it because the court says "relevance?"; and if you plan on asking for DPS records of an independent laboratory that certified their radar units, once again, relevance?

My advice to my students?  Don't allow one "bad apple" in the police department to deter you from becoming a police officer and once you become a police officer, always maintain your ethics, honesty and integrity!

Peseta Dennis Fuimaono-Lutu



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