Sunday, March 16, 2008

Few Highway Cops in Saskatchewan

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that 14 of Saskatchewan’s 47 Highway Traffic Officer positions sit empty. This represents a vacancy rate of 30 percent.

Under the Saskatchewan Police Act, 1990, highway traffic patrol officers enforce federal, provincial and municipal laws relating to road transportation and the licensing, registration and operation of vehicles. Officers have the authority to stop and complete vehicle weight and safety inspections, enforce speed limits and other rules of the road.

But officers can't do as much as they used to. In recent years, some officers expressed a desire to carry sidearms because encounters with motorists can be dangerous. The department refused, but instead told officers to restrict their enforcement to commercial vehicles and leave private vehicles alone. Although this meant fewer potentially dangerous encounters, it also meant officers had a lot less to do.

This means regrettable situations where private cars have zoomed by as fast as 210 km/h and get off scott free because patrol officers don't stop people like him anymore. Another time an officer noticed a car drove 30 km/h over the speed limit, and a commercial trucker followed at 15 km/h over. When the officer stopped the trucker, the irate driver asked, "Who is the greater risk on the road, me, or the guy that blew by?" What can an officer say?

Taxpayers are paying for officers legislated to do one thing, but ordered by the department to do less. At least with so many positions open, the officers will be a little busier while they wait for their colleagues to be hired. Yet, with 30 percent of officers not there at all, who knows how many overweight trucks have made Saskatchewan highways even worse?

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