Troopers rescue injured pelican from Skyway Bridge
Florida Highway Patrol troopers rescued an injured pelican from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Friday. According to troopers, they found the pelican at the foot of the Skyway Bridge showing signs of distress. It turned out that the pelican was caught in fishing line and had fishing hooks impaled in its legs. Troopers say the injured bird was trying to cross the interstate and posed a danger to itself and motorists. That's when Corporal Timothy Sleyzak and Trooper Raymond Ada called in Fish and Wildlife Lieutenant Evan Ladkowski to help rescue the bird. Lucky for the pelican, later nicknamed Sunshine, these law enforcement officials were able to get him off the road and out of harm's way. Sunshine was then transferred to Owl's Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife where he is expected to make a full recovery.
Tennessee Highway Patrol exploring body cameras
The Tennessee Highway Patrol is exploring equipping its troopers with body cameras, a move that would make it the first statewide law enforcement agency to do so. The idea is included a document called a "Request For Information," something public agencies file when they are interested in receiving information about a possible purchase. The document also asks for more information about new "pursuit vehicle video" equipment, the cameras included in cars that record incidents on the road. Lt. Bill Miller, a spokesman for the THP, said the move was not an indication of a policy shift but rather a search for more cost-effective in-vehicle equipment. "Our current system requires video to be downloaded and stored in a hard drive. The newer camera systems allow for cloud storage and many do come with body cameras. We are exploring camera systems based on their cost efficiency to operate," Miller said. However, the RFI itself indicates a broader purpose in pursuing the cameras. "Body cameras are necessary for Trooper protection as well as accurate and complete documentation," the document states. The RFI is no guarantee the THP will move forward with purchasing body cameras. The document states the agency will conduct demonstrations on some equipment in April. In theory, the agency would still need to solicit bids for any body camera contract before it would equip troopers with the devices. Outcry in recent years over the deaths of people — most often young black men — at the hands of police officers around the country has spurred an ongoing national debate about whether body cameras should be necessary for all law enforcement. Supporters say the cameras provide more accountability and protection for law enforcement, offering evidence to show exactly what happens. Opponents say there are privacy and financial concerns with cameras, opening the door to new expenses and questions of information that should or can be released. In Tennessee, only a few agencies are using the cameras. A Tennessean review in November 2015 found the Knox County Sheriff's Office and police departments in Gallatin, Millersville and Memphis among the entities using or testing the cameras. The Franklin Police Department has discussed using the cameras but officers are not yet equipped. Most notably, Memphis police have the cameras but the roll-out of the program has been marred by controversy. According to The Commercial Appeal, there have been allegations a representative from the company that makes the cameras bribed a city official, that the equipping of the cameras has gone slowly and the department's policies on how and when to use the cameras don't stack up with national standards. Officers at every precinct were slated to be equipped with the cameras by November. Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has promised to include funding for body cameras when she releases her proposed budget later this spring. During a December forum, Nashville District Attorney Glen Funk cautioned the cameras are not a cure-all. "As a trial lawyer, as a prosecutor, I'm all in favor of having additional evidence in cases," he said. "But we've got to be careful about rushing headlong into this thinking it's going to cure all ills, even an ill that hasn't happened in Nashville and I pray never happens in Nashville." In past years, Democrat state lawmakers have proposed bills that would require all law enforcement agencies to wear the cameras. Those bills have never gained much traction in the Tennessee General Assembly, and no similar bill had been filed as of Monday morning.
90 Mph wind gust tips truck onto Wyoming Highway Patrol Car
A dramatic moment was caught on camera as an 18-wheel tractor-trailer was seen tipping over onto a Wyoming Highway Patrol vehicle. The video shows the truck driving in the right lane on a highway being blown over by what was recorded as a 90 mph gust of wind. No one was in the police vehicle at the time, and no one was hurt in the incident. The truck driver was issued a citation, police said.
Wounded Oregon State Trooper leaves hospital after 48 days
An Oregon State Police trooper who was shot several times during a Christmas night shooting is out of the hospital. Oregon State Police said in an email Sunday that Trooper Nic Cederberg has returned home. Cederberg is an Army veteran and seven-year veteran of the department. Cederberg’s wife, Hayley Shelton, said in a Facebook post that they returned home Friday after 48 days in the hospital. While they have a long road ahead, she says she is confident her husband will face the next recovery phase with determination, strength and a positive attitude. Authorities say the trooper was shot Dec. 25 by homicide suspect James Tylka following a car chase. Tylka was then killed by police. Officers pursued Tylka after finding his estranged wife dead outside his suburban Portland home.
Good Samaritan comes to Missouri Highway Patrol trooper's aid as suspect fought with him
Tuesday began like any other day for a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper, but things quickly escalated during a traffic stop. The trooper stopped a driver along eastbound Interstate 70 near Higginsville. What happened next has the driver facing assault charges and other related allegations. “That guy was just fighting and screaming, fighting and screaming, he just kept resisting, kept resisting, kept resisting,” said Charles Barney, a good Samaritan who helped the Trooper Beau Ryun. Trooper Ryun said his radio quit working as he fought to arrest the man he stopped, 22-year-old Johnathan Timmons. The radio malfunction left him unable contact dispatchers at headquarters in Lee's Summit to let them know he needed help. “One of the best feelings of my life was seeing them showing up to help me,” said Trooper Ryun. That help came from 38-year-old Barney. He said he was headed to a funeral Tuesday morning when he saw Trooper Ryun struggling with a man on the side of I-70 “Happened to see lights on the side of the road, and my fiancé told me that there was an officer fighting a guy on the ground,” Barney added. Barney said he decided to stop and see if he could help. “I noticed the cops arms were just shaking, so he needed to call for backup, so I got on the mic, and told them I was helping this officer, he needed help ASAP,” Barney said. Trooper Ryun said he definitely needed help after stopping Timmons. “He was overly nervous, and I smelled the odor of marijuana,” added Trooper Ryan. Trooper Ryun said he asked Timmons to step outside and walk to his patrol car. The trooper tried to pat Timmons down to see if he had any weapons and attempted to put him in handcuffs when he began resisting. “We began fighting on the side of the interstate,” he said. Trooper Ryun said he was hoping someone driving by would call 911. Luckily, Barney and another woman stopped to help. “I said, I`m a pedestrian, do you need some help? And he was like, yes please, I need my handcuffs,” Barney said. Barney said he did what he could. “I finally just grabbed his arm and bent it back over his head, and I told him, I said man, if you don`t stop, I`ll break it,” added Barney. Eventually officers started showing up, Timmons finally gave up, and Trooper Ryun and Barney got him handcuffed. Trooper Ryun said he found out later that Higginsville police and the Lafayette County Sheriffs Department received several 911 calls reporting the fight. “I`m just extremely grateful for them stopping, and all the people that called and reported the altercation because you were my lifeline to Troop A,” said Ryun. Trooper Ryun said he plans to submit the names of the two people who stopped so they can be publicly recognized for helping him. Timmons faces second degree assault, attempt to disarm a law enforcement officer, third degree assault, felony resisting, possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana, and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia. On Wednesday night he was behind bars in the Lafayette County Jail on a 24-hour hold.
Mother's murder drives new Highway Patrol commander
As Col. Glenn McNeill prepares to take the helm of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, he is confident he's not alone in his journey. "She's with me right now," the 46-year-old McNeill said Wednesday of his mother, who was murdered in his hometown of Reidsville when he was 10 years old. Her killer was never caught. "As a result of that investigation, that's why I wanted to be a North Carolina state trooper," said McNeill, who will be sworn in Friday morning at the State Capitol as the patrol's latest commander. He succeeds Col. William Grey, who retired last month after four years in charge. "I'm never going to forget where I come from. I don't think I'm worthy to be sitting in this position," McNeill said. "I'm still a poor, black kid from Reidsville, North Carolina. That's how I view and see myself. My history with the patrol is going to be present with me and is going to inform all of the decisions I make as commander of the Highway Patrol." A 24-year veteran of the patrol, he started out in Durham and gradually worked his way up the ranks, most recently serving as the agency's director of training. Improved training remains a priority for him, as are better pay and new equipment for troopers and increased enforcement of motor carrier regulations and illegal drug trafficking. "How do you put our troopers, who are doing a very dangerous job, in the position to be successful?" he asked. "That's through training.” The patrol will undergo a complete policy and procedure assessment in hopes of restoring accreditation, he said. "I'm going to hold them accountable because we are ambassadors for our state. The bar's going to be set very, very high," he said. He said he also wants to build trust with the public. "We're up to the challenge, and we're going to do our very best to make sure that the relationship that we maintain in the community that we serve is a positive one," he said. As McNeill takes on the challenge, he said his law enforcement dream never leaves him, nor does the mother he lost. "This is all I've ever wanted to do is be a North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper," he said.
Mother reunites with New Jersey State Troopers who helped deliver her baby
A mother reunited with the state troopers who helped her deliver her newborn baby. NBC10 was at the Port Norris State Police Barracks Tuesday as the troopers held Ka'Niah Williams."If it wasn't for them, I don't even know if she would be here," Ka'Niah's mother Deshyamma Dalton said. "I'm thankful. I'm really thankful." On January 19, Deshyamma Dalton needed help. In labor with her baby girl, Dalton desperately pulled into the parking lot of the Port Norris State Police Barracks, a decision that may have saved her child. Four state troopers rushed to her aid and helped deliver her daughter in the back of her van. The baby arrived just seconds after Dalton pulled into the parking lot. On Tuesday Dalton returned to the same place Ka’Niah’s life began to give thanks to the troopers who came to the rescue. During the reunion, everyone was thankful the scene was much calmer. “It was nice to see them again in a lot less stressful situation,” said State Trooper Andrew Abdill. “We’re happy to have a successful ending and this was just icing on the cake," said Trooper Matthew Hanlin. Dalton’s mother Katrina Govan says she is grateful for the officers’ quick response. “So many people talk about the different things that the state troopers go through," Govan said. “All the negative. But a lot of people need to know the positive.” The good deeds didn’t stop there- Ka’Niah went home with gifts from the troopers as Valentine’s Day is just one week away. But like any good day, Dalton says they’ll be back next week to give the troopers a gift of their own.
Watch video at: https://www.facebook.com/NewJerseyStatePolice/videos/1223755991012274/
Governor Roy Cooper announces that Glenn McNeill will be North Carolina's new commander
Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday that he’s picked State Highway Patrol veteran Glenn McNeill as the agency’s new commander. McNeill replaces Col. William Grey, who led the agency throughout Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s term and retired abruptly in January. It’s common for new governors to pick new Highway Patrol commanders as the role traditionally is a political position. McNeill is a Reidsville native who’s served with the Highway Patrol since 1994. He’s been the agency’s director of training since 2014 and completed the FBI’s National Academy in 2015. Lt. Col. Vic Ward, who’s been serving as acting commander since Grey’s departure, will now be the deputy commander under McNeill. “These men have dedicated their careers to serving the state with professionalism, high moral character and integrity,” Secretary of Public Safety Erik Hooks said in a news release. “They both have a broad range of experience in the Highway Patrol and have garnered well deserved respect of their fellow troopers and other law enforcement.” McNeill’s appointment means that the state’s two top law enforcement officials – Highway Patrol commander and secretary of public safety – are African-American. Cooper promoted Hooks from within the State Bureau of Investigation, where he was the special agent in charge overseeing the inspections and compliance unit. The Department of Public Safety oversees the patrol and the SBI as well as the state’s prison, juvenile justice and emergency management agencies.McNeill spoke to Highway Patrol cadets at their graduation ceremony in November. “You must demonstrate a commitment to justice, diversity and equal treatment to all we serve,” he told them, according to a news release about the ceremony. “You are ambassadors for our state, so be the professionals you were trained to be and make sure your actions are filled with integrity and your heart encircled with loyalty.”N.C. Troopers Association President Daniel Jenkins issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying his group “looks forward to working with the new command staff to continue improving the Highway Patrol and protecting the citizens of N.C.”
Missouri State Highway Patrol acting superintendent reflects on changes in Highway Patrol, society
Minutes after being named as the Missouri Highway Patrol's next superintendent, Lt. Col. Sandra Karsten last Wednesday told the 29 members of the current recruit class: "The Patrol is a great organization — I've had a passion for it since I was 17 years old." Karsten, 53, will be the 23rd superintendent — and the first woman to be appointed to head the now-85-year-old Patrol. She holds the job on an "acting" basis until she is confirmed by the Missouri Senate — with her confirmation hearing to be scheduled during this legislative session. "I have an older brother and grew up on a farm, and anything he could do, I could do," she said, explaining her initial interest in the Patrol and a law enforcement career. "I attended the program by the American Legion Cadet Patrol Academy, here (at General Headquarters) — it's a week for 16- to 18-year-olds, and they introduce you to recruit training. "I was so impressed that I wanted to be a part of that organization." But first, after graduating from high school, Karsten went to Truman State University, graduating in May 1985 with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. She joined the Highway Patrol in September 1985 and began training with the other new recruits of the 57th Recruit Class — 11 years after the first women had attended the Patrol Academy. (The current group is the 104th Recruit Class). Since joining the Patrol, Karsten also has earned a master's degree in public administration from the University of Missouri. After graduating from the Patrol Academy, she was assigned to road duties in Callaway and Audrain counties — and noted the technology used by the Patrol today is far-advanced from what was available 31 years ago. "When I came on, we had a high- and a low-band radio," she recalled. "Now we have a digital system" as well as the use of cellphones and computers in cars. "It's just amazing how much technology is in the cars now," she said. She also pointed to engineering changes — like median cable barriers on interstate highways and primary routes like U.S. 63 — that have occurred over the years. Big changes also have occurred in personnel policies, she reported — and she helped the Patrol develop some of them. "When I became pregnant the first time, there was no policy on what to do with a pregnant trooper," Karsten recalled. "So, through the course of my pregnancy, I was able to develop a policy. "It's a temporary condition — it doesn't last forever, thank goodness — so we were able to treat it as that." Yes, she acknowledged — the Patrol didn't have a policy for dealing with pregnant employees, even though she wasn't the first woman to work for the agency. "How they dealt with it with the first women was," Karsten explained, "she knew, 'If I get pregnant, I have to stop working for the Patrol.' "We even had that in the 1960s and early '70s — that many of our civilian employees, when they became pregnant, had to stop working for the Patrol until the pregnancy was concluded." Today, the new superintendent said, the Patrol has changed a great deal. "We're very inclusive of all people, now — whether it's a mom, a dad, a partner or whatever the case may be," Karsten said. "I think this signifies how we have grown as an organization." While society has changed, she acknowledged many women still face choices and decisions men usually don't have to make. "In the Patrol, we have so many opportunities, career-wise, that as a mother I had to look at some of those whenever we had children — was it going to be conducive for me to continue working the road?" Karsten explained. "And it was! "I had very supportive supervisors (and) very supportive lieutenants, and since then, I came off the road and we had another child. And that support continued." When asked what advice she might offer to women working in a male-dominated industry, she told reporters: "Sometimes, you've got to figure out how to navigate in a male-dominated profession — sometimes with a sense of humor, sometimes with your proper attitude. "What I have found, though, is that my husband was the greatest partner I could choose, and he has been very supportive. "I would be very careful in selecting your life-mates, is my advice."
Pennsylvania State Police loosens college requirement amid looming trooper shortage
Incoming cadets will no longer have to obtain an associate's degree or 60 hours of college credit prior to applying to the Pennsylvania State Police Academy, the agency announced Tuesday. The move is part of a number of changes designed to boost recruitment amid an anticipated wave of trooper retirements and flagging enrollment. "This change gives applicants greater flexibility when planning for their career with the Pennsylvania State Police," Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker said, in a written statement. "The change, while not lowering standards, allows individuals to continue their education while in the application process." Blocker said cadets would still be required to meet the education requirement before training began. Hundreds of troopers are expected to retire this year as those who graduated from the academy during a hiring wave in the early '90s become eligible for retirement. In Pennsylvania, state troopers may retire with a partial pension after 20 years of service or a full pension after 25 years. Last year, the academy's four cadet classes graduated a total of 271 new troopers at the same time that 800 others reached retirement age. That level of incoming troopers fell far behind 2015's four classes, which graduated 406. It typically takes cadets between a year and 18 months to move through the process, from application through graduation from the academy. This year, 800 troopers become eligible to retire as 350 cadets are expected to replenish the ranks. Meanwhile, a new administration has set about improving diversity in an agency that has seen its share of nonwhite troopers dwindle from 12 percent in 1999 to about 6 percent today. Earlier this month, the state police eliminated a requirement that all recruits pass a lie-detector test. State police officials previously told PennLive that the polygraphs were comprehensive enough that they could snag prospective cadets on minor infractions they thought were well behind them. The move garnered criticism among the rank-and-file, as well as from the union that represents current troopers. Other requirements have not changed. Cadets must be at least 20 years old when they complete the application. In order to be appointed to the academy, they must be between 21 and 40 years old. They must also take a written and oral examination. After those preliminary steps, cadets move on to a background check, physical testing and medical and psychological evaluations. Cadets who make it to the 27-week training program at the academy earn a $1,200 biweekly salary. The starting salary for troopers is set at $58,962.
Governor Eric Greitens names Sandy Karsten as first women to lead Missouri Highway Patrol
Gov. Eric Greitens on Wednesday named Lt. Col. Sandy Karsten as the new chief of the Missouri Highway Patrol, the first woman to hold the position in the patrol’s 81-year history. As lieutenant colonel, Karsten has served as the second-ranking patrol officer under Nixon appointee Col. Bret Johnson, who has retired. She began her career as a trooper, and is now tasked with overseeing more than 1,000 uniformed officers. Making the announcement after speaking to new recruits, Greitens highlighted both Karsten's experience and volunteer work in the community, saying Karsten has “led at every level with courage and commitment.” He also reiterated his support for law enforcement – a priority he’s highlighted since becoming chief executive on Jan. 9, pushing for an alert system to help locate those who’ve harmed officers and tough criminal penalties for harming officers. "I am always going to stand with our law enforcement officers on the front lines," Greitens said.
Colonel Ann C. Assumpico formally sworn in Monday as Rhode Island's new state police superintendent
Amid a swirl of pomp and ceremony that included bagpipers, drummers, three of her predecessors and most of the state's elected officials, Col. Ann C. Assumpico was formally sworn Monday as the new state police superintendent. An audience of more than 500 people, dozens of them in the uniforms of Rhode Island's local police departments, filled a third-floor ballroom at the Convention Center to witness Assumpico's swearing in. Gov. Gina N. Raimondo promoted Assumpico in November from captain in charge of the state police training. The governor said that training experience meant the new superintendent would be well-positioned to improve the department's recruiting diversity while, after nearly a quarter-century in the department, being able to address its other needs as well. "This is a woman who has decades of experience and knows how to do the job," Raimondo said. The 11 a.m. ceremony, which included an honor guard and the drums and bagpipers of the Rhode Island Highlanders Pipe Band, lasted more than an hour. Assumpico remained for more than an hour after that to stand in a receiving line to accept congratulations and pose for pictures with well-wishers. Those who spoke included Raimondo, Assumpico's brother-in-law and two of her mentors, former state warden Albert Gardner and retired state police superintendent Edmond S. Culhane. Assumpico is the first woman chosen to head the state police, capping a so-far 24-year career with the force. Before joining the state police Assumpico, 59, was a corrections officer at the Adult Correctional Institutions and a Coventry police officer. Her predecessor, Steven G. O'Donnell, also started as a corrections officer. Gardner told of the time he was directing the corrections department's training program and Assumpico was one of his trainees. The class had to rappel down the side of the tower at the state police firefighting training center. "Her eyes y. were as big as saucers," Gardner said, recalling the look on Assumpico's face when told she had to leap out of the tower window. "But she did it over and over until she was laughing on the way down," he said. Her brother-in-law Arthur L. Serpa said no one who knew her questioned her drive, but said she also has compassion. He remembered a time when she had issued a traffic citation that could have cost a man his license, and the ability to get to work at Electric Boat. She went to the hearing, he said, and asked the judge allow the man to be able to drive to and from work. Assumpico spoke of how, when she started in law enforcement, the chances of a woman leading the state police had seemed remote. But she said her ascension sent a message to all potential recruits that with competence and a willingness to work, it was possible. She noted that in the audience of hundreds who filled the Convention Center Ballroom for the ceremony were beside law enforcement officers, senators, congressmen, mayors and judges. She said that showed that the state police was not the province of one colonel, but that it is entwined with other agencies and organizations. "This position is not held by one person alone," she said.
Oklahoma trooper Brian Costanza recounts details about end of Vance manhunt
There's a look of calm on Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Brian Costanza's face as he reaches into his backseat and grabs his AR-15 rifle and presses on the accelerator. Costanza's eyes are focused on the farm truck tearing down a dark country road ahead of him as he readies his weapon and begins to fire through his own windshield. By now many Oklahomans have seen the dashcam footage of Costanza chasing down Michael Vance, who during an 8-day October manhunt killed two family members, wounded three lawmen, and a motorist during an attempted carjacking. And while the video shows the last moments of Vance's life and offers a close-up view of one of the men who ended it, it only hints at the years of training and discipline that led up to that now infamous gunfight. “You don't rise to the occasion; you fall to your training,” Costanza said while standing on a jujitsu mat in a private gym just east of downtown Okmulgee. Costanza trains here most days with fellow troopers and young men interested in jujitsu. He likes the methodical nature of the sport, which just moments before had him locked arm and arm, leg to leg with another trooper, their faces bright red in the brief moments of pause before one of them tries to gain a dominant position over the other. Rigorous, daily training, Costanza said, can be the difference between him and a fugitive killer like Vance. “Some officers put on that gun and badge and they think they know it all,” Costanza said, a police scanner on a nearby table echoing through the small building. “If you have that mindset of ‘I know everything, I don't need to learn anything else,' then you're going to get left behind. Unfortunately, in our line of work that can mean death.” He looks over at two men grappling on the mat a few feet from him and smiles. “This mat will humble you.” Costanza is one of the lucky ones who pretty much always knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. It was a chance meeting with a state trooper as a young child that solidified his commitment to becoming an officer himself. A highway patrolman responded to a wreck involving one of his family's horses, and Costanza said he will never forget seeing the trooper walk through their stables. “He had his hat on and everything like that, and I was just amazed, infatuated,” Costanza said. After a year on the Okmulgee police department, Costanza made it through the trooper academy and joined the patrol in 2002. He's been on the highway patrol's tactical team, which responds to elevated threats, since 2006. Costanza carries himself with a natural confidence that belies his belief in constant self-assessment and preparation. He trains daily, eats well, and studies case law that deals with lethal force, which is what he and his colleagues on the tactical team were discussing the day before they ended Vance's life. “As we're talking around this deal, that was one of the things we were talking about,” Costanza said as he patrolled Okmulgee on a crisp January afternoon. “I know I've got a double murderer in front of me who at that time had already shot two cops and an innocent civilian at a carjacking, is it reasonable to believe that if I let him get away that he's going to leave and hurt more people?” Costanza left Okmulgee sometime after 9 p.m. on the night of October 30, hoping to be far enough west to provide assistance if Vance was spotted. Vance shot and wounded Dewey County Sheriff Clay Sander that evening, and Costanza soon found himself leading the chase. After Costanza fired a hole through his windshield, he carefully squeezed off several rounds, which can be seen in night vision footage captured from a helicopter, bursting off the headache rack of Vance's stolen farm truck. “After the very first round, I said to myself ‘It's really loud in here. ' It was absolutely deafening. I kept firing, and it was just ringing and I couldn't even understand what was going on (over) the radio.” Later that evening, his ears still filled with a piercing ring, Costanza would notice that the heat from his rifle had melted his dashboard. That, coupled with the 11 bullet holes Vance left in Costanza's Tahoe, would cause the department to decommission the patrol unit. Vance was nearing another roadblock ahead, and Costanza was focused on ending the threat. “When I started shooting I was hoping I was going to kill him,” he said. “That was my full intention. I want to end him right this second, because if I don't, if I can't get him to stop, then he's going to go down the road and he's going to have the ability to engage my partners at this next roadblock and there's a high probability one of them is going to have serious bodily injury or death.” After stopping and letting the farm truck slowly idle in reverse, Vance stood in front of the truck as it crept toward a line of officers and fired his AK-47. “I wanted to get out of this vehicle, because it was a coffin,” Costanza said. Costanza stepped out of his patrol unit, and he and his colleagues opened fire. Vance's figure can be seen in the helicopter's footage hitting the pavement.
Pennsylvania State Troopers' tattoos become a focal point of negotiations
The two-page email that landed in the inboxes of top commanders at the Pennsylvania State Police last summer was ominous. “Due to recent reports of members acquiring tattoos without authorization,” the July 8 message directed, “a staff inspection is ordered.” The email was from Lt. Col. Lisa Christie, a top deputy to state police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker. She wanted every trooper rounded up and examined for any body tattoos visible when officers wear the agency’s short-sleeved summer uniform. Col. Christie’s email told commanders to include pictures and detailed spreadsheets when reporting the results. The sudden and furious crackdown at the agency resulted in body checks for hundreds of officers, and has now become the focus of heated negotiations between Mr. Blocker and the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, which represents the more than 4,000 troopers. They are battling over how to deal with troopers found in violation of the state police’s ban on visible tattoos, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The administration, citing state police policy, has pushed for the troopers to have any such tattoos removed, a process that may involve costly and lengthy treatments, according to the sources, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to publicly discuss the matter. The union is advocating for a less stringent resolution, although what those options include are unclear. Asked for comment last week, state police officials would not say what prompted the staff-wide inspection, nor how many troopers were found to have violated the ban. Union head Joe Kovel also declined to discuss the matter. From Vermont to Arizona, state police and other agencies have grappled with how much body ink is acceptable, and whether banning it is wise. “The trend right now very clearly is to relax tattoo regulations,” said Will Aitchison, a Portland, Ore.-based expert on public safety and labor employment law issues. “There is an obvious reason for it — we can’t recruit enough people to be police in this country.” Mr. Aitchison, a lawyer who has represented dozens of police and firefighter unions, added: “We are in the middle of a hiring crisis in law enforcement that we haven’t seen in our lifetime.” Indeed, some departments are toying with relaxing their bans, seen as impediments to recruiting good people. Others require only that tattoos be covered up, or ban offensive images, words or “excessive” ink. State police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski said last week that his agency’s policy on personal appearance prohibits tattoos, body art, piercings or any branding visible to the public when troopers are in their summer uniform. That means markings on the face, neck, hands, forearms and portions of the upper arms. “The tattoo cannot be visible in the summer uniform shirt, which is a basic, short-sleeved shirt,” Mr. Tarkowski said. “If a tattoo extends beyond that, a cadet would have to have it removed at their expense.” The policy also applies to applicants and cadets at the State Police Academy. They get at least three months to have tattoos or piercings removed, and must adhere to the policy as long as they remain troopers. The state police even have a committee specifically assigned to assess body-art requests from active troopers, who must submit plans for a tattoo’s design, size, color and placement. But agency officials say the committee doesn’t appear to have been used extensively, if at all. Mr. Tarkowski could not say what punishment active troopers face if they are caught violating the tattoo ban, or whether Mr. Blocker supports strict enforcement of the policy. Andrew Matthews, who chairs the National Troopers Coalition, which he said represents 45,000 troopers in 42 states, said there are ways to deal with active troopers who have violated the ban that do not involve forcing them to have their tattoos removed. Some law enforcement departments, for instance, suspend them and then require them to wear long-sleeved shirts year-round or cover their body ink with makeup or an Ace bandage. “I think having it removed by laser is a little barbaric,” Mr. Matthews said. “I’ve seen it with one of my members, and it was a painful process. … There can be a middle ground.” That’s the issue at the heart of the ongoing talks between Mr. Blocker’s administration and troopers’ association. Some at the agency cite the policy as a deterrent to potential recruits — including ex-military members — as the state police acknowledges struggles to attract and retain qualified applicants amid a wave of expected retirements in the next few years.
Drug bust nets $1.7M worth of meth, heroin, cocaine, Louisiana State Police reports
A cache of drugs with a street value estimated at $1.7 million - including more than 64 pounds of meth - was discovered after a traffic stop in Alexandria,State Policereported Saturday (Jan.28). The arrest of the driver, who already was being investigated, led authorities to illegal narcotics in the car and in several houses, authorities say. State Police identified the driver as Derrick Felton, 37, of Alexandria, and said the arrest culminated a month-long investigation into alleged illegal drug activity. Felton, who was arrested Friday, was booked with possession with intent to distribute the $1.7 million in assorted narcotics. He also was charged with resisting arrest by flight and failure to signal lane change, according to the police report. The arrest led to the discovery of roughly 64 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, two pounds of heroin, two pounds of cocaine, and five pints of promethazine syrup, an antihistamine and narcotic cough suppressant combination, authorities said. Police say they also found more than $67,000 in cash. More arrests are likely in the continuing investigation, according to the State Police report. Several law enforcement agencies were involved in the investigation: The Louisiana State Police, Alexandria Police Department, FBI Central Louisiana Safe Streets Task Force, Louisiana Probation and Parole, United States Postal Inspector's Office, Pineville Police Department, Louisiana Army National Guard Counter Drug Unit, the Rapides Parish District Attorney's Office, and the Grant Parish Sheriff's Office.