Woodridge Trustees: Seat Belt Enforcement Violates Drivers' Privacy
If approved, the unit would launch this summer with two Woodridge police officers devoted to traffic issues, including speeding, driving under the influence and seat belt enforcement.
Woodridge Trustee David Pittinger blasted a proposed Woodridge Police Department traffic unit, saying it would create village policy allowing officers to look into cars for seat belt enforcement and "grossly violate residents' privacy."
The new unit, which the Woodridge Police Department hopes to establish by this summer, will be devoted to traffic issues, including speeding, driving under the influence and seat belt enforcement. The Village Board will vote on the proposed traffic unit at a future meeting. Trustees meet next on Thursday, March 22.
"We get a lot of phone calls regarding speeding vehicles in their neighborhoods," Woodridge Police Chief Ken Boehm said. "We feel by having dedicated traffic officers we'll be able to provide a better service to those residents' concerns as well as areas we've identified that require additional traffic services."
Having a dedicated traffic unit means that patrol officers will not be called away from performing other services in the community, Boehm said.
The new unit is planned to include two officers trained in accident reconstruction and traffic enforcement who would work Monday through Friday during high-traffic hours. They would focus on areas of high traffic and residential traffic complaints.
Pittinger denounced the unit solely in terms of seat belt enforcement. He urged the board to make a "pro-liberty approach," to "make a decision where we decide not to look into people's cars."
"I think seat belt enforcement is a gross violation of people's personal privacy," Pittinger said. "The point of policing is to protect people from others, not to protect people from themselves."
Special safety check events, like the one to be held on St. Patrick's Day, are usually held for four to five hours and require the presence of six to eight police officers, Boehm said.
Officers look at a wide spectrum of violations during the seat belt checks, including expired licenses, warrants and vehicle violations, Boehm said. These checks include making sure child safety seats are used correctly.
The checks are important because seat belts reduce injuries in accidents, Boehm said.
During a special Village Board budget workshop March 3, Pittinger said the methodology for collecting statistics on whether seat belts save lives is flawed and it would be a mistake for Woodridge to adopt the same policy as Springfield.
"It's unfortunate that our state has a different view of it, to manage our lives to such a degree," he said.
Trustee Greg Abbott agreed with Pittinger. No other trustee voiced either support or concerns related to the new unit.
"These laws are on the books for a reason," Boehm said. "We want people to be safe when people are driving through our community, and seat belts are a part of that."