Letters to the Editor -- August 08, 2002

Published on Thu, Aug 8, 2002
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Letters to the Editor

Laser ineptitude?

Blaine Municipal Court & The Editor:
I was acquitted on the charge of exceeding 35 mph when the officer failed to appear in court. This is unfortunate since I went to considerable trouble and expense to appear in my own defense.
I discovered, through researching my case, that the officer was using the radar equipment in a manner that would introduce an unacceptable level of error.
At the time of the alleged offense, (on the I-5 approach to the US Customs, traveling north) the officer told me three things: 1) I was accused of traveling at 50 mph in a 35 mph zone; 2) the vehicle in front of me was traveling at 38 mph (!); and 3) the range at which he took a radar ‘spot’ fix on my vehicle was 980 feet.
I noticed that he was using a Stalker LIDAR hand held police laser.
I knew something was amiss since at that speed differential, I would have hit the back of the car in front of me in less than five seconds. I was the second in a line of vehicles emerging from a road construction zone and in fact, the car in front of me was pulling away slightly.
I presumed honest intention on the part of the officer, so I took it upon myself to look into possible sources of such a large margin of error. I found two and both are a factor of the long range at which the reading was taken.
At 1,000 feet, a movement of only one degree of arc (lever arm effect for .4 second acquisition time) would translate into eight feet of lateral movement during the reading. If this occurred from back to front of the vehicle, it would produce the fifteen-mile an hour increase in the speed of the vehicle. (If it occurred front to back, of course, the reading would be too low and there would presumably be no ticket issued).
Most probably the officer was relying upon the doppler tone to “lock onto” the vehicle. At such a range it is not possible to be sure which part of the vehicle the laser spot is hitting. They just pick up on the hot spot. Unfortunately when the side of the vehicle is visible (as was the case at this particular location) the hot spot would be the spinning wheel which, depending on the particular spot on the wheel, could be moving at up to twice the speed of the vehicle.
Conclusions: The LIDAR Stalker has an option, a tripod for use at long range. It is designed to eliminate lateral error. This should be used whenever the distance is likely to cause an unacceptable level of accuracy. (I would say over 300 feet).
The doppler effect cannot be relied upon if the side of the vehicle is visible and the range is such that the officer is unsure whether or not he is hitting the wheel. (The unit is like a handgun, and although it has a flat trajectory, it is no more accurate to point).
I hope my research will prove useful and will result in a less haphazard use of the equipment by Blaine police. I realize that it would prove a bureaucratic challenge, but I believe the right thing to do would be to void all tickets issued from that particular location and refund the fines.
Jim Dowd
Vancouver, BC

Not in the slightest!
Mr. Dowd & The Editor:
I have researched the issues you presented in your letter of August 5 regarding the reliability of our laser speed measuring equipment (also known as light detection and ranging system or LIDAR) and the method we use to calculate vehicle speed.
LIDAR is accepted in the scientific, law enforcement and traffic safety communities as an accurate means to measure the speed of moving vehicles. Courts admit evidence of speed derived from LIDAR measurements when it can be demonstrated that the equipment is used in accordance with recognized standards.
The Blaine police department uses LIDAR in strict conformance with these standards. Prior to using LIDAR, officers must complete training and certification requirements prescribed by the Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission that ensures equipment is used properly and measurements are accurate.
The device used by the Blaine police department is constructed, calibrated for accuracy and operated in accordance with standards promulgated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and complies with all relevant court rules. The Washington State Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) advocates the use of LIDAR as an accurate means to measure the speed of vehicles. The WTSC funded our acquisition of LIDAR equipment due in part to the severity of the speeding problem experienced in the very area where you were cited.
Scientific evidence and testing demonstrates that due to sophisticated sighting systems, tripods are neither required nor needed to accurately measure speed with LIDAR. The equipment produces a very narrow laser beam and takes several separate readings before displaying a speed measurement.
Issues you raise regarding the possibility of the beam reflecting off of a tire, wheel or across the vehicle do not affect the device’s reliability. The speed displayed is always the same or less than the measurement you would otherwise receive from a different part of the vehicle. If you pan the beam across a car or any other surface, the device’s circuitry detects the inconsistency and displays an error message rather than a speed. There is no basis in physics or practical experience for a spinning wheel to produce a “hot spot”.
Your concern that “the Doppler effect cannot be relied upon if the side of the vehicle is visible” is without justification. Any speed measurement reading from the side of a car will always be lower than the actual speed of that car. This is called the “cosine effect,” It is one of the reasons courts accept radar and laser devices as accurate: errors in speed measurement are always in the favor of the motorist.
Your estimate that you would have hit the back of the car ahead of you “in less than five seconds” if you were speeding would have to be based upon your knowledge of how closely you were following that other car. However, that might account for the officer’s attention being attracted to your driving. LIDAR is accurate enough to differentiate and measure the speed of a car from the one ahead of or behind it.
In summation, I disagree with your allegation that there was a “haphazard use of the equipment by the Blaine police.” It is clear from all the evidence available is that a trained officer certified in using LIDAR was conducting speed checks on a roadway where speeding motorists have killed two people and injured others in recent years. The officer observed your vehicle approaching this location at a rate of speed that he first visually estimated to be about 15 mph over the posted speed limit. The officer then properly used a very accurate certified device to check your car’s speed. The device’s measurement confirmed his visual estimation.
Michael Haslip, Deputy Police Chief

Christianity, the old way
There is a new thing happening in the Christian church today and, oddly enough, it isn’t really new at all but something very old; as old as the Christian faith itself. It is called “Messianic Judaism”. It is Christianity in its most primitive first century form.
It is a seldom mentioned fact that the Christian faith was, in its earliest form, one of several sects of Judaism that existed in ancient Palestine. Jesus, who Messianic believers refer to by his actual Hebrew name “Yeshua,” was an Israelite, as were all the disciples and the vast majority of the first believers. They maintained a Jewish lifestyle even after coming to believe in Yeshua as the Messiah. Christianity was never meant to be something separate and different from its Jewish roots. It was a continuation of the Jewish faith, with the revelation added that Yeshua was the Messiah of God, come to set all men free from the powers of sin.
The Torah-observant life, which means living in obedience to God’s instruction, was practiced by all the first believers. Yet, over the years that followed the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., a flood of Gentiles entered the faith, bringing with them Greek and Roman traditions. The Political merger between the early church and the Roman Empire, virtually eliminated the Hebraic form of the faith. This compromise with the Gentile world slowed and almost stopped all together the Jewish acceptance of their own Messiah. But there has always remained a remnant, even today. This ancient form of the faith is found in Messianic Judaism.
Today there is a resurgence of that first and most ancient form of Christianity. Discover for yourself the richness of that which is firmly rooted in the fertile soil of Judaism. The Messianic faith embraces both Jews and Gentiles as one body of believers, holding Gods law as the standard. The same law and standard that was followed by Yeshua (Jesus) and the disciples themselves.
For more information, contact Charles Ryalls at 360/371-8992 or visit the “Yeshua the King” at http://www.yeshuatheking.org.
Charles Ryall
Birch Bay

Festival was upbeat
The Editor:
I was privileged last weekend to serve as artistic director of the Blaine Jazz Festival, an event that brought talented teens together with an outstanding jazz faculty from throughout the United States and Canada. For three days, the sounds of jazz permeated the halls of the Blaine middle school and performing arts center. The outcome was three excellent concerts: The String of Pearls featuring the faculty, the String of Pearls preview at the marine park, and the final student jazz concert featuring the big jazz band and combos. Students attended from Blaine, Mount Vernon, Bellingham, Edmonds, White Rock, B.C., and Fairbanks, Alaska.
I have seldom worked in a situation characterized by so much positive input and cooperation. On behalf of the jazz faculty I wish to thank the Blaine school district for use of the facilities and particularly Bob Gray, Blaine high school band director and Don Lotze, chemistry teacher and manager for the PAC.
We are grateful to the Pacific Arts Association for sponsorship of this event; without their early support the project would never have taken place. Resort Semiahmoo and Semiahmoo Resort Properties helped with a generous and timely grant which guaranteed the project. And with vision and dedicated effort, producer Sandy Wolf artfully guided this project from idea to inspiring conclusion.
The entire process was great fun for all and we look forward to moving onward with Festival 2003 next summer! See you there!
Theodore DeCorso,
Dunedin, Florida

Educated voters
The Editor:
Greetings from the nation’s capital. While the 107th Congress is in recess for the month of August, I thought that I would give a little reminder of the importance of this year’s election period. We all know of the importance of voting from the Presidential election of 2000. The votes of a few people decided the fate of the election. I am thankful for those in Florida who went out and voted for President Bush.
What many may not be aware of however, is the importance of this November’s federal and state congressional elections. Since Senator Jim Jefford’s of Vermont defection of one year ago, there have been many proposals of Congress which have been blocked because of the Democrat controlled Senate. I speak especially of the Senate judiciary committee. During my time here, I have seen the constant dragging by Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (also from Vermont) and encouraged by Senate Majority leader Tom Daschel. I have been working with the judicial nominations unit of the committee, working to fill our federal courts which are at dangerously low levels of occupancy. President Bush has nominated several extremely well qualified judges, who have been stuck in Senator Leahy’s judicial quicksand. Even though President Clinton had an opposition controlled Senate, his first 11 circuit nominations waited in committee for an average of 115 days before being voted out in congress, while President Bush’s nominees have been waiting 364 days and counting!
This is the kind of nonsense that needs to be avoided.
I am not suggesting that all Democrats are this way, or that all Republicans are well suited for office. It is important however that we investigate and research candidates, and make the best choice on their character and abilities, not based solely on party affiliation. I know that neither Senator Murray, nor Senator Cantwell (who also sits on the delaying judiciary committee) are up for election, but there are congressional elections. Please be involved. Do not simply vote for incumbents, vote for the best candidate. Research Congressman Larsen’s record and make an intelligent decision for the person to represent our district.
These are very important congressional elections. Let’s make sure that President Bush can carry out his ideas for the nation. Con is the opposite of Pro, but Congress does not have to be the opposite of Progress. Let’s allow Congress to pass real legislation. Your vote matters.
Thank you. Wishing you all the best.
Matt Hargreaves
Washington D.C.

Thanks, goodbye
The Editor:
Thank you everyone for making Blackberry House Coffee Cafe the special place it is in the community. Serving you has been a wonderful experience and given us a great opportunity to get to know many wonderful people and keep in touch with old friends.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, we will no longer be running the cafe as of August 30. Gift certificates and free coffee cards need to be redeemed before the end of August.
Thanks again.
Charlie, Marsha, Kay, Colin, Spencer & Trisha

Letters Policy
The Northern Light welcomes letters to the editor; however, the opinions expressed are not those of the editor. Letters must include name, address and daytime telephone number for verification. Letters must not exceed 350 words and may be edited or rejected for reasons of legality, length and good taste. Thank-you letters should be limited to 10 names. A fresh viewpoint on matters of general interest to local readers will increase the likelihood of publication. Writers should avoid personal invective. Unsigned letters will not be accepted for publication. Requests for withholding names will be considered on an individual basis. Only one letter per month from an individual correspondent will be published.

Please send your letter to:
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Letters Policy

The Northern Light welcomes letters to the editor; however, the opinions expressed are not those of the editor. Letters must include name, address and daytime telephone number for verification. Letters must not exceed 350 words and may be edited or rejected for reasons of legality, length and good taste. Thank you letters are limited to five individuals or groups. A fresh viewpoint on matters of general interest to local readers will increase the likelihood of publication. Writers should avoid personal invective. Unsigned letters will not be accepted for publication. Requests for withholding names will be considered on an individual basis. Only one letter per month from an individual correspondent will be published.

Please email letters to letters@thenorthernlight.com