By Will Grigg

A bill proposed by the Idaho State Police would give its Director, Colonel Ralph Powell, the ability to create a state-spanning fleet of covert surveillance vehicles. The measure, RS 24032, would apply not only to the ISP but also “Any other department, agency, or entity of the state” whose written application to Colonel Powell is rewarded with “a finding of good cause.“

The proper way to examine a proposed piece of legislation is not to assess it on the basis of what it would supposedly do on behalf of the public, but rather with a view to what it would authorize a government agency to do to the public. The ISP’s “Statement of Purpose” claims that the bill would have the relatively modest objective of using “some unmarked patrol vehicles to address the issue of dangerous driving behaviors that a resulting in an increase in fatalities and injuries” on Idaho’s roadways.

Admirable as the ISP’s concern for Idaho motorists might be, its own official report for 2014 (the year for which the most recent statistics are available) observes that “The number of motor vehicle crashes decreased by 1 percent, from 22,347 in 2013 to 22,134 in 2014.” Fatalities were also down – from 214 to 186 – during the same period, as were the number of serious injuries. The state’s fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled “was 1.15 in 2014, down from 1.35” from the previous year.

While the report catalogs deaths and injuries during accidents in which impairment, distraction, or “aggressive driving” were involved, the over-all trend-line for motor accidents is downward – which means that the claim made in the “Statement of Purpose” for the secret police fleet bill is a falsehood. A far likelier explanation for the ISP’s proposal is the agency’s zeal to conduct marijuana interdiction, and related seizures of cash and contraband.