Troopers rescue man stuck in swamp because, well, New Jersey
Getting swallowed by a swamp on the side of the turnpike would have been a uniquely Jersey way to go. Authorities say state troopers rescued a man stranded and freezing waist-deep in the marsh along the highway's shoulder in Elizabeth last weekend. It's nothing unusual for an officer on patrol to find someone standing on the shoulder with their hazard lights flashing, but when Trooper Victor Rios pulled over at 4:43 a.m on St. Patrick's Day, he could hardly believe his ears. "My cousin's stuck in the swamp," the man told him, according to dashboard video released by the State Police on Friday. What? "My cousin is stuck inside the swamp." How? The victim had unwittingly waded into the muck near mile marker 102.3 in Elizabeth while trying to walk toward a friend's disabled vehicle on the other side of the marsh, according one of the troopers at the scene. It was a crisis right out of Bruce Springsteen's "Rosalita" -- "out stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey" -- made all the more dangerous by the frigid March night. The man, whom police did not identify, did not realize how deep the mud was until his feet "became entrenched" halfway through his ill-fated shortcut, according to the State Police. Trooper Reinaldo Cruz said that when he arrived to assist Rios, the scene was so dark he had to point his troop car toward the swamp and turn on a spotlight in order to see the victim trapped in the muck. "It's as if it was quicksand or cement," Cruz told NJ Advance Media in an interview Friday. "He was already above waist-high." The troopers spent half an hour making increasingly elaborate attempts to pull the man to safety. Rios and Cruz first took a large tree branch and extended it toward him, but the man was already in the throes of hypothermia and was too weak to grab on, police said. More troopers arrived and attempted to make a human chain but were unable to reach the man. Eventually another trooper, Renato Antunese, grabbed a lifeguard buoy and rope from his car and threw it toward the victim, who wrapped it around himself. The video shows at least seven troopers pulling the yellow rope from the marsh back onto the highway's shoulder and draping the man in an emergency blanket. He was taken to Trinitas Emergency Medical Center, where he was treated and later released, police said. Cruz said he's seen a lot in his five years patrolling the turnpike, but the incident was his first roadside swamp rescue. "You're never going to think with freezing temperatures that you're going to have someone that will even entertain the idea of entering the water," he said.
Thirty-five new troopers graduate from Louisiana State Police
Friday, March 23, Louisiana State Police announced the graduation of its 97th Cadet Class. A total of 35 people graduated from the Louisiana State Police Training Academy in Baton Rouge. On November 5, 2017, 49 Cadets from across the state began their 20-week journey through the Louisiana State Police Training Academy. Throughout the academy, Cadets received training in various subjects including crash investigation, emergency vehicle operations, impaired driving detection, traffic incident management, and leadership in addition to a rigorous physical training regimen. Surrounded by family, friends, and fellow Troopers, 35 of those Cadets reached their goal this morning of receiving the gold boot badge of the Louisiana State Police. These new troopers now will be assigned to troops across the state, where they will undergo a 10 to 14 week field training program under the supervision of a senior trooper.
North Dakota Highway Patrol leader announces retirement
The superintendent of the North Dakota Highway Patrol will retire this summer. Col. Michael Gerhart Jr. announced Thursday, March 22, that he’ll retire from the position effective June 30. He’ll then become the executive vice president of advocacy organization the North Dakota Motor Carriers Association. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve our citizens and honored to work with a team of professionals committed to making a difference every day by providing high quality law enforcement services to keep North Dakota safe and secure,” he said in a written statement. “It’s been a very rewarding career.” Gerhart started as a Highway Patrol trooper in 1992. He was promoted to sergeant in 2004, lieutenant in 2007 and major in 2011. He’s served as superintendent since he was appointed to the position by former Gov. Jack Dalrymple in July 2014. Gerhart was reappointed by Gov. Doug Burgum in December 2016. The next superintendent will be appointed before Gerhart retires, according to a news release from Burgum’s office.
Washington State trooper jumps into Sammamish River to save suicidal man
A Washington State Patrol trooper jumped into the Sammamish River on Wednesday night and pulled a suicidal man to safety. The State Patrol says Trooper Kevin Thomson responded to a report after 6:30 p.m. about a man who was trying to get into vehicles along state Route 202 near Northeast 145th Street in Woodinville. Thomson found the man and was guiding him off the road and off an overpass that spans the Sammamish River, the State Patrol says. Then the man broke away and jumped from the overpass to the river 30 feet below. Thomson ran down the embankment, jumped into the river and pulled the man from the river and up the embankment. The trooper administered first aid to the man, who was bleeding from his head, until firefighters arrived. The man, a 20-year-old from Lynnwood, was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he is expected to undergo a mental health evaluation.
Indiana State Trooper hits 150 MPH to chase down speeding Dodge Challenger Hellcat
The driver of a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat gave Indiana State Police one of their fastest chases ever on Tuesday evening after a trooper spotted the high-performance muscle car flying down I-90 and wasunable to catch up despite reaching speeds of 150 mph in his pursuit vehicle. But as the ISP's gloating news release titled "160 Mile Per Hour Hellcat Tamed On The Indiana Toll Road" hints, the Hellcat driver eventually got his due—which, in this case, is a reckless driving charge. He was reportedly passing through Indiana on his way to Maryland, and while we empathize with the desire to put the hammer down when crossing a Midwestern state, doing 160 mph is actually slower than following the speed limit when you factor in the inevitable night in jail. Trooper Dustin Eggert had just finished up assisting a motorist with engine trouble on the side of the Toll Road in LaPorte County at around 7 p.m. on Tuesday when he saw the707-horsepower Hemi Orange Challenger Hellcat whiz past him at an extremely high rate of speed. Eggert sped up to try and close the gap, and he noticed the Hellcat "continued to pull away" as he reached 150 mph in his own car. Keep in mind that this is just after rush hour on a major highway; Eggert noted in his report that the Challenger was bobbing and weaving through normal-speed traffic like it was at a standstill. The impromptu Vanishing Point remake came to an abrupt end a few minutes (and eleven miles) later when the driver got blocked by two side-by-side semi-trucks, at which point Eggert was able to catch up and pull over 38-year-old J. Jesus Duran Sandoval. Sandoval admitted that he had been driving "a bit more than 160" and was immediately arrested and taken to the county jail. Believe it or not,he's actually the second Challenger Hellcat driver to get busted for hitting 160 mph on that very road in the last year. When these situations come up, it often becomes a question of whether the officer was right to match those dangerous speeds on a public road. All we can say is that Indiana state law gives troopers latitude to exceed the speed limit during a chase "if the person who drives the vehicle does not endanger life or property." Pursuits themselves are only supposed to occur "when the necessity of immediate apprehension clearly outweighs the level of danger created by the pursuit." Of course, the driver in this case was already speeding when the officer began to chase him. A reckless maniac weaving through traffic at 160 mph does present an immediate and obvious danger to the public, and chances are police would argue that adding an officer with high-speed training to the mix doesn't increase that danger enough to outweigh the benefits of stopping the offender. It's also worth mentioning that Eggert backed off once he reached 150 mph and radioed ahead to warn other units instead of pushing his car any further. And as the Indiana State Police ominously concludes in the release, troopers "will take necessary action" to enforce the rules of the road—something this Hellcat driver won't forget any time soon.
Pennsylvania State Police introduce new tool in opioid battle
The Pennsylvania State Police have launched what officials describe as a “first of its kind” online tool for local police and troopers to submit information about overdoses. The tool will help police coordinate efforts to combat drug trafficking and it will feed information to the governor’s opioid task force so they can quickly recognize and respond if there are hot spots of dangerous drug activity, said Capt. Troy Hyman, director of the intelligence division of the state police. The Pennsylvania Overdose Information Network (ODIN), which debuted last week, is a centralized repository to track overdoses, naloxone administrations, and investigative drug information that may be used by police, public safety, and health care professionals to better track and share all types of information related to opioid abuse in their communities. Preliminary figures show 5,260 Pennsylvanians died from drug overdoses in 2017. In 2016, heroin and opioid drug overdoses claimed 4,642 lives in the state. “For law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, ODIN provides crucial data about overdoses, heroin seizures, locations of opioid-related incidents, and other critical information to aid in the apprehension of offenders who bring illegal drugs into our communities,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “This technology allows law enforcement to streamline real-time data sharing so actionable information does not slip through the cracks.” State police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski said that in its first week of operation, 78 agencies fed information into the system about 342 incidents. Hyman said that state police have been encouraged by the response from their counterparts in local police. There are a little more than 1,000 police departments in Pennsylvania, though, a 2014 state legislative study estimated that 72 percent of them have 10 or fewer officers. Just over half of the state’s 2,500 local municipalities lack any local police and rely on state police for protection. But under the state’s plan, if a police department is unable to enter their own information, county 911 centers have the capability to enter relevant data. There are no plans for the information obtained through the system to be directly shared with the public, Hyman said. But portions of the information will be funneled into other reports that likely would be available for the public to see, he said. Within the system, information will be segregated so that those in health policy can see data that will be useful to them. There will also be information that only police and those in law enforcement will be able to access, Hyman said. The data-sharing will be tremendous help to officials working at the state’s Opioid Operations Command Center, created to respond to Wolf’s Jan. 10 opioid emergency declaration, said Ray Barishansky, deputy secretary for planning and assessment with the Department of Health and incident commander for the Opioid Operational Command Center. While police can use the data to coordinate efforts to arrest drug-traffickers, health planners will be able to quickly discern if there are hot spots of drug activity and whether the state and local agencies have adequate amounts of naloxone in those areas or sufficient treatment options in place, he said. Naloxone is an overdose reversal drug that is now being carried by state police troopers and many other first-responders. Another component of the Wolf Administration’s drug emergency declaration allows EMS to leave naloxone with individuals who’ve suffered overdoses so they have it with them if they decline treatment and overdose again.
Massachusetts State Police honor fallen trooper Thomas Clardy
Massachusetts State Police Trooper Thomas Clardy had a command of the English language, one that would show up in his arrest reports. It sometimes made his superior, Lt. Michael Smith, feel like he needed a dictionary, Smith recalled Friday, as he offered a few lines of one of Clardy's verbose reports.
"...He uttered a phrase in a voice coarsened by alcohol and the words were spoke in such savage haste, as he ran them together in an unintelligible growl that scarcely resembled human speech. The obnoxious and repulsive odor that had earlier besieged me grew in potency as its repugnant pong forced me to hold my nose in utter disgust."
A crowd of State Police troopers, Massachusetts officials and Clardy's family shared a heartfelt laugh as Smith read the lines. But more than Clardy's elaborate police reports will live on. The group was gathered at the State Police barracks in Charlton on Friday afternoon to unveil a memorial stone in the fallen trooper's memory, announcing that a bridge on the Massachusetts Turnpike and a stretch of roadway will be named in Clardy's honor. Clardy was conducting a traffic stop on March 16, 2016, on the westbound side of the Massachusetts Turnpike in Charlton when another car suddenly slammed into his cruiser. Clardy suffered serious injuries and was later pronounced dead. The 44-year-old was the father of seven children. He was an 11-year veteran of the State Police and a member of the 77th RTT (2005) assigned to Troop E. It was a bittersweet day, the two-year anniversary of Clardy's death, as State Police honored his memory. "The biggest thing that sticks out with Tom for me was his compassion, it's one of the things I learned from him," Smith said. "Whether he had somebody under arrest or they were broken down roadside or on the phone, he treated everybody with respect and compassion." On the memorial stone, Clardy is pictured with a friendly smile, something Smith said he will always remember the trooper for. "He was a big strong man, but he was a very gentle soul," Smith said. Gov. Charlie Baker said that in the weeks after Clardy's death, he heard one phrase repeatedly. "Tom Clardy was a great guy," is what everyone said, Baker recalled. "Over and over again that was the message." Baker said he hopes that as the years go by, and one day when repairs are made to the bridge and roadway, people will see the Clardy name and want to know more about who the trooper was. Reisa Clardy and her children looked on quietly as Smith shared his heartfelt memories of Clardy, and as Baker and State Police Col. Kerry Gilpin unveiled the memorial stone. "Truthfully, it's hard for me to know what else we can say to Reisa and her family," Baker said.
Off-duty trooper saves man's life with a tree branch and a t-shirt
An off-duty New Jersey State Trooper used a tree branch and a T-shirt to save an auto accident victim's life this week. Trooper Kenneth Minnes was traveling on the Atlantic City Expressway in Gloucester Township around 2:30 p.m. on Monday when he came upon an overturned, small truck that had run off the road and struck several trees, police said. Another motorist had already stopped to assist the two occupants of the smoking vehicle and Minnes helped move them away from the truck before it was consumed in flames. When Minnes noticed the passenger, a 25-year-old man, was bleeding heavily from an arm wound, he grabbed a T-shirt and a piece of tree branch to fashion a makeshift tourniquet, he explained during an interview Friday afternoon. This stemmed the blood loss until EMTs arrived. The occupants were airlifted from the scene. Both remain at Cooper University Hospital in Camden. Minnes has been checking with hospital staff to see how they are doing. "I've been calling them every day," he said. "Both of them are in bad shape." The passenger was in stable condition as of Friday. The accident was so bad, police couldn't initially determine the make of the vehicle, State Police spokesman Lt. Ted Schafer said. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Mississippi Highway Patrol legacy passed down through generations
Capt. Johnny Poulos grew up watching his uncle, former DPS Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz, wearing the uniform of the Mississippi Highway Patrol. Poulos was 9 years old in 1974 when Santa Cruz graduated from Trooper school. In 1999, Poulos joined MHP as a part of Class 54, and started his career in Hattiesburg. As he continued that career, his son Justin was watching in the same way. "I was raised around it my whole life and it's always been a calling for me," said Justin Poulos. "Growing up around it and seeing how everything operates and how my father impacted the community around him — that's something I always wanted." On Tuesday, Justin Poulos graduated Trooper school as part of Class 62 along with 56 other cadets. It seemed to bring full-circle the photo he and his father had taken at Johnny Poulos' graduation when Justin was 7 years old, as did the photo of Justin and his son Ridge, 3, who was even wearing an MHP uniform made of one of Johnny Poulos' old uniforms. "The brass that's on that shirt is what I actually graduated with in 1999. To see those pictures side by side, it's hard to explain," Johnny said. "It's a proud moment, but it's an emotional moment to think I remember when Justin was standing by me in that picture when I graduated and it seems like it's just yesterday. Nineteen years later, he walks across that stage and gets the badge." Because it becomes a way of life in a family, there have been other families with generations of troopers, Johnny Poulos said. It's an honor to be among them. And could Ridge be the next member of the family to join the MHP one day? "I'm following in my father's footsteps. I hope to be a father to my son like my dad's been to me, it's amazing to be able to grow up and see that," Justin said. "I'm just hoping my son will be able to experience the same things that I am." "There's a possibility if he chooses, he might walk across that stage one day and get the badge pinned on him too," Johnny said. "If that's what's in store for Ridge down the road, hopefully I'll be around to see that." Justin Poulos attributes his graduation from the academy not only to his family, but to his classmates. When they missed being home, he said, they took comfort in the family they were becoming to each other. "The hardest part about patrol school for me was being away from my family, and I think for all 57 cadets the hardest part was being away from family," Justin said. "It's a culture shock, but when it's all said and done, we all pretty much came together as a family and we all got to graduate and walk across the stage. We all accomplished something together, and it's all something we'll remember the rest of our lives." There were three women in the class, and cadets from all over the state. Capt. Poulos said the class seemed to have a character and chemistry from the beginning. "They were a unique class, you could tell they wanted to be there. They had the drive and they knew they were going to graduate," Johnny Poulos said. "As far as the females being mothers, then going out on top of that and being a trooper, I can't tell you how much respect I have for them to be able to do that and to want to do that, so they deserve the credit." Johnny Poulos said Class 62 taught their superiors as well, especially in ways they can more effectively recruit. Having three women in the class helped them learn more about how to recruit women as well, he said. The recruits received their assignments a few weeks ago and will now start several weeks with field training officers. Justin Poulos said he, like most of his classmates, is looking forward to being on the road. Johnny Poulos said it was a strange experience to be both a trooper and a trooper's father, helping encourage Justin when he came home on the weekends and get him ready to face another week. "I'm really proud of him, and the whole family is too. He accomplished it just like he said he would," Johnny Poulos said. Something else Justin said to him stuck with him, too. "He said, 'This isn't about me, there are 56 other cadets who deserve just as much credit as I do if not more,'" Johnny Poulos said.
Nevada Highway Patrol troopers receive pin after mass shooting
We're getting our first look at some new pins that have been issued to some Nevada Highway Patrol troopers who responded to the 1 October shooting. The pins are inscribed with Route 91. 58 people were killed and hundreds more were injured during the Route 91 Harvest Festival. 13 Action News spoke with one trooper who told us that "I'm very humbled and proud to wear it. To me it is a tribute to the 58 souls we lost as well as the hundreds of others who are forever changed at no fault of their own," said NHP Trooper Travis Smaka. 68 troopers received the pin which they can wear on their uniforms.
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Louisiana State Police trooper finds wallet during Mardi Gras, mails it back to owner
A Louisiana state trooper found a wallet on New Orleans' Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras and set it back to its owner at the trooper's expense. Master Trooper John Jett's good deed would have gone unnoticed, but the wallet's owner, who goes by the username Wardo613 on the social news aggregation site Reddit, posted a photo Wednesday on the site of the wallet and Jett's note.
My name is John Jett, I am a trooper with the Louisiana State Police. While working Mardi Gras, I found your wallet on Bourbon St. at St. Louis St. I intended to leave it at a lost and found at the NOPD 8th District, however they really did not have one set up. I decided to mail it to you. I did go through your wallet in an effort to make sure the address on your (driver's license) was your correct address. Everything in your wallet is exactly as it was when I found it."
The grateful owner mentioned in his post that all of the money he had previously was still in the wallet when he got it back in the mail. The post already has been viewed almost 1 million times. Jett's actions "are truly a model of public service," said State Police Col. Kevin Reeves, head of the Louisiana law-enforcement agency. "It makes us proud as an agency and as a law-enforcement agency that Trooper Jett would go above and beyond his duty as a public servant," Reeves said. "It represents the heart of the best of our agency. Jett, 40, is based at Troop E in Alexandria, La. He's been a state trooper since April 1999, according to the Leesville (La.) Daily Leader, which named Jett its Public Safety Person of the Week in March 2011. "Law-enforcement officers do these kind of acts of kindness every day, usually without fanfare. We'd have never known about this either if it hadn't been for the owner of the wallet," Reeves said. "Trooper Jett never mentioned it. He just considered it part of his job." The wallet's owner said in comments to his original post that he plans on sending pizza to Jett and his colleagues as a thank-you.
Connecticut State Police announce new Colonel
Amid the departures of some high-ranking command staff, the Connecticut State Police have announced the appointment of a new colonel. George F. Battle, who previously served as a lieutenant colonel, has been promoted to colonel and will oversee the entire force of roughly 1,200 troopers. Battle assumes that position following the departure of Alaric Fox, a 24-year state police veteran who was appointed colonel in March 2016. Fox was named the police chief in Enfield recently. Battle is a 30-year veteran of the state police who has served in a number of roles, including commanding officer of the Office of Administrative Services and deputy commissioner of the Division of State Police, officials said in the announcement. He previously served as major in the Bureau of Business Development and a captain in Western District headquarters, the Office of Professional Standards and Compliance, and the Bureau of Field Technology, Infrastructure and Transportation. He was the commanding officer of Troop I in Bethany, Troop W at Bradley International Airport and Troop A in Southbury while holding the rank of lieutenant, officials said.
Montana Highway Patrol welcomes four new troopers
The Montana Highway Patrol welcomed four new members to its ranks during a ceremony in Helena on Friday. New troopers Calvin Jimmerson and Toni Snelling of Billings, Branden Timm of Big Timber, and Perry Woodland Cascade received graduation certificates and their badges, after months of training in the MHP Advanced Academy. Montana Attorney General Tim Fox was among the leaders who welcomed the graduates. He encouraged them to think about the importance of character. “Public service is really a time-honored profession, for which your reward will only be as meaningful as the effort, energy and heart you invest into your work,” Fox said. Col. Tom Butler, chief of the Highway Patrol, asked the new troopers to build relationships in their communities, treat others with respect and take time for their own families. “Today, I’m honored to have you joining the family of the best law enforcement team in Montana, as we continue the important work of serving the people of the great state of Montana,” he said. The cadets selected Jimmerson to speak on behalf of their class. He decided to apply to MHP after several years working in IT. “It’s a little bit different pace, going from sitting at a desk to sitting in a patrol car,” he said. Jimmerson said he’s honored to carry on MHP’s legacy. “I’m just overwhelmed by the support that we’ve had here for graduation and up to this point, the last six months of training,” he said. “There are so many people that are behind law enforcement and it means a lot.” Jimmerson will be working in his home community of Billings. As a trooper, he said he wants to help address drunk driving and drug trafficking in Montana. All four of the new troopers will serve initially in eastern Montana, where leaders say they needed to account for retirements and other job openings. Friday’s event was the 63rd graduation ceremony for the MHP Advanced Academy. Leaders said this graduating class was unusually small. They said, in many cases, the Highway Patrol receives fewer applications when the job market in other industries is stronger.
Minnesota Trooper of the Year
Dion Pederson of Park Rapids has been named the Minnesota State Patrol (MSP) trooper of the year. Pederson, an accident reconstruction specialist and academy instructor whose career as a trooper started in 1997, received the award Feb. 14. It recognized his service during 2017. An announcement about the award on the MSP's website said, "It has been more than 20 years since Dion Pederson became a Minnesota State Patrol trooper. Yet, year after year, he continues leaving an agency in a better place than the year before." Pederson, the statement continued, "is one of the leading crash reconstruction specialists in the state. He's a mentor. He's a crash data retrieval specialist. He's a firearms instructor and a certified armor. Oh, and he still somehow finds time to patrol the roads, present at conferences and represent the State Patrol with nothing but professionalism." Pederson studied law enforcement at Alexandria Technical and Community College, where he met his wife, Sue, in 1986. He started his career as a deputy with the Norman County Sheriff's Office. "So, I'm actually in my 29th year of law enforcement," he said in an interview. In 1997, he joined the MSP, where Sue had been a trooper since 1989. She is currently a sergeant, the senior trooper in the local office. Pederson teaches firearms and crash investigation at the law enforcement academy in Camp Ripley, where cadets witness real vehicle crashes using dummies "so they can see the live action, how things actually pan out," he said. In real-life accidents, Pederson analyzes the scene, the condition of the vehicles, including the possibility of neglected mechanical issues, and analyzes data from the airbag system's "black box," which is actually silver. "There's just a ton of information in there," he said, "like if seat belts were worn, the pre-impact speeds, was there braking, were there steering maneuvers." Newer vehicles also have yaw sensors and steering wheel angle sensors, showing whether and how a driver reacted to a threat. "It will tell me," he said, "what the car was doing, what the driver was doing; but generally, we can't tell you what the driver was thinking. We can take their word at some point, but evidence won't lie. Skid marks, data that I find on the scene, my speed analysis — that stuff doesn't lie." "If you can make heads or tails of what I wrote," he said, "I think that's good. That's how I explain it at the academy, too. Don't try to sound smarter than you are. Don't try to dazzle people with the word-of-the-day. Just be yourself." In addition to his on-the-road duties and his mentoring work, Pederson also made presentations about crash analysis last year at the east- and west-central Toward Zero Deaths conferences. His advice for today's cadets who would like to see a Trooper of the Year Award on their desk someday is: "Take your calls. Be a good partner. Work. Don't be a load. Everybody has days when you're busting your butt all day long, and there are days when there's not very much going on — you appreciate those days. It actually works well. You go out and work traffic, stop some cars, interact with the people. Hopefully you're making a difference out there." Pederson acknowledged that every time a public safety officer puts on the uniform, especially nowadays, it's dangerous. "When you start your shift, your goal is to make sure you sign off at the end of your shift and go be with your family." In a larger sense, he said, his goal as a trooper is to help people. Besides the opportunity to do that, he said what keeps him putting on the uniform day after day is the daily mystery of what will happen next. "When you get into your squad car," he said, "when you sign on for the day, you have no idea what you're going to be doing. It might be going to a crash. You might be going to a medical call. You might be helping the county at a different call. To me, it's the thrill of the unknown."