Ohio State Trooper Working to Keep the Roads Safe
The hockey mom from Philadelphia hit 82 mph and never saw the silver patrol car in the median of the Ohio Turnpike. When she finally realized her fate and hit the brakes, Trooper John Williams already had pulled out. He hit the accelerator to catch up to her and switched on his blue flashing lights. Minutes later, the woman appeared to seethe as Williams, ever polite, handed her the speeding ticket and wished her a safe trip. The officer went on to make 11 stops in the next eight hours. For Williams, 39, that has become a typical day: He has written more tickets than any trooper in Ohio from 2010 through 2014, the most recent years available, according to a Plain Dealer analysis of Ohio State Highway Patrol tickets. He averaged nearly 2,000 tickets a year during that span. But Williams is far from a rigid, citation-writing machine. His empathy for drivers is matched by his attention to detail and concern for roadway safety. He has doled out warnings, calmed agitated motorists and offered directions to the misguided. In short, he does far more than send speeding drivers to court. Williams and a handful of troopers work from a turnpike post in Milan, near Sandusky. They cover 80 miles from Lorain County to Ottawa County. In the summer, with Cedar Point and the Lake Erie islands attracting visitors, the turnpike is the busiest roadway in the state. It also is the most heavily ticketed, the analysis shows. Troopers can patrol all of Ohio's roads, but they focus on state routes, the interstates and the turnpike. Unlike Williams and his colleagues who patrol the turnpike, most troopers are scattered across the state, working at county posts and running between traffic stops and crashes. They also help local authorities with investigations. Williams has done some of that, too. He is a 15-year veteran who has investigated accidents, arrested drunken drivers and found his share of illegal drugs in drivers' cars. But he has focused on speeding drivers on the turnpike. "I don't pay attention to (statistics),'' Williams said."I come out here to enforce traffic laws and to, hopefully, change drivers' behaviors. Excessive speed is a huge problem. "For me to work the interstate and not write tickets would be wrong. My chances to enforce traffic laws here are much greater than someone who is working in a county post.'' And that leads to a question he hears often: Do troopers face a quota? "There has never been a quota,'' Williams said. State troopers' salaries are paid with driver registration fees and taxes, not fines from tickets. The patrol has 1,600 officers, though many, such as crash reconstructionists, investigators and command officials, do not patrol roads. In the five-year span that the newspaper examined, troopers wrote an average of 540,000 tickets a year. At 6:17 a.m. on the coldest day of January, Williams began his day by checking and calibrating his TruSpeed laser gun. When it failed him, he grabbed a new one. He then spent just as much time, nearly 15 minutes, checking the new device. With a sugar-free Monster energy drink and the laser gun at his side, Williams wheeled his patrol car onto the turnpike for his day shift. He initially sought broken-down cars and trucks in the 3-degree weather. Finding none, he stopped in a median and pointed the laser gun at oncoming traffic and focused its beam on the front license plates of cars and trucks. Within minutes, he noticed a white Honda. A woman headed to work passed a semitrailer going 82 mph. The turnpike's speed limit is 70 mph. Williams wrote and printed out the ticket on a patrol-issued laptop, which troopers have in their Chargers. He thanked her for her time and urged her to be safe. She seemed too flustered to notice. Within the hour, he pulled over the Philadelphia mother in an SUV that had hockey team stickers on its back windows. He also stopped a father driving his daughter to college. Later, he stopped an older woman from Illinois going 84 mph. She was more concerned with Williams' health than her ticket. She feared he would get sick because he was working in such cold temperatures. The woman appeared to drive away somewhat upbeat, though still worried. "When I went to the (state patrol) academy, instructors said we would get 'thank yous' after traffic stops,'' Williams said. "I thought, 'What? You just gave a person a ticket and then he or she thanks you?' But it happens a lot.'' Others aren't as cheerful. Williams said he stopped a car recently with a set of parents and two children. The children, in the back seats, ripped Williams for what he did, while the parents sat silent. "I couldn't believe it,'' he said. "But you can't take anything personally.'' Later in the day, he stopped his patrol car along a westbound emergency lane and looked at a memorial built to honor Robert Perez, a fellow trooper at the Milan post who was killed in 2000. Perez's cruiser was rammed from behind as he sat in it on the berm finishing paperwork after a stop. He talked about Perez and the risks troopers face. The most dangerous involved approaching cars. On this day, as he does regularly, Williams headed to the passenger side of cars and trucks to avoid passing traffic. He then checked the number of people inside and what they were doing. "I've seen too many bad movies,'' he said. "We don't know whom we're stopping. We don't know what's going on in the car. So we have to be careful.'' Between stops, he bought a sandwich at a Subway shop off the turnpike and stopped briefly at the Milan post. He ate the sandwich and munched potato chips among colleagues while talking proudly about his two young children. Within minutes, he was back on the road. His stops included several drivers who gave him a litany of excuses. They said there is a lack of posted signs about speed limits, that they were unfamiliar with Ohio laws, that they weren't paying attention to how fast they were driving. "I've heard them all,'' he said. As the temperature crawled above 5 degrees, Williams struggled to stay warm. A young woman whom he ticketed for going 82 mph wanted to know where she could buy some water. The bottles that she had in the trunk were frozen. He answered several questions about the ticket, the roadway and area restaurants. He shivered as he jumped back in his patrol car. "Is it summer yet?'' he said. He was looking for speeding cars before he finished the question.
A Family Thanks Georgia State Trooper.
A Georgia State Patrol trooper made a little boy's night over the weekend. Matthew Gallant was driving with his family when they ran over an 18-wheeler tire on Interstate 75 over the weekend, which disabled their car. That's when Georgia State Trooper Michael Strickland was called to the scene. Gallant shared his experience with the Georgia Department of Public Safety on Facebook: "My 4 year old son is obsessed with police cars and police officers in general," Gallant said. "He was upset by everything that was going on until Trooper Strickland arrived and let him sit in his patrol car and turn on the lights and sirens and let him wear his trooper hat." Gallant said Trooper Strickland was very professional and friendly. "[Strickland] completely made my son's night," Gallant said. "Georgia needs more state troopers like Mr. Strickland. The Department of Public Safety shared Mr. Gallant's post on Facebook.
Two New Jersey State Troopers Rescue Animals Trapped in Burning Barn.
Two New Jersey State Troopers are credited with saving the lives of animals who had been trapped in a barn fire in Warren County Saturday. Trooper I Jordan Siegel and Trooper Corey Smith responded to the fire on Delaware Road in Hope Township on Saturday morning and were told that the owners of the barn were on their way home and livestock was in the barn, about 15 feet away from the flames. With the animals in a panic, Siegal and Smith started gathering the goats, sheep, llamas and chickens and built barricades out of pallets to keep them from heading back to the barn. “We’d like to give an ’atta boy’ to these two troops for a job well done! Keep up the good work,” wrote State Police on their Facebook page.
New Jersey State Police Graduates 134 New Troopers
The New Jersey State Police graduated more than 130 new troopers during a ceremony at Brookdale Community College on Friday. The new troopers, who were the State Police's 156th graduating class, included 32 combat veterans and more than 34 percent of the graduates were minorities, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said during his commencement speech. "New Jersey is one of the most richly diverse states in the country. And it encourages public confidence when the citizens can look at the State Police force and they can see themselves," Hoffman said. "But regardless of issues of race and ethnicity, being a State trooper means setting the highest personal standards on and off the clock. It means to make sure you do the right thing, for the right reason. And it means to always work to set an example, not only for your peers but for others as well. Everyday, you are out there to make a difference." State Police Superintendent Colonel Rick Fuentes said the new troopers are about to execute their obligation to a public safety contract with the public that they will now serve and protect. "From here on in, this is your organization and your profession. Treat this organization as if it were a member of your own family because, of course, you are now a member of ours. Remember that the reputation of our organization and of every trooper is effected by your behavior on and off duty," Fuentes said. "Treat the public you will now serve with integrity, fairness, compassion and respect. I will expect no less of you, neither will your fellow troopers." Out of the approximately 200 cadets who started the State Police academy in August, only 134 made it through to Friday's graduation. But Captain Jeanne Hengemuhle, commandant of the New Jersey State Police Academy, warned the troopers that their hard work is only just beginning. "I know that you all believed the academy training was going to be the hardest part of you career, but the hard part starts as soon as your receive your badge," Hengemuhle said. "With this badge, you have the opportunity to have a career in which you can make a difference. But with this opportunity, every action you take, every word you say, on and off duty, will be scrutinized."