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.
Footage captures driver crashing into Louisiana State Police unit
Louisiana State Police released video of a suspected impaired driver as he crashed into a unit Saturday. On Saturday, shortly after noon, Louisiana State Troopers began receiving several emergency calls in reference to a vehicle being driven erratically on Interstate 12 westbound west of Hammond. The callers would ultimately witness the vehicle crash into the rear of a Louisiana State Trooper as the Trooper was attempting to position himself to stop the target vehicle. State Police say Florida resident Kyle Nadler was traveling westbound on Interstate 12 when he witnessed a Dodge truck being driven erratically. Nadler and his wife calmly called 911, provided authorities with a vehicle description, and continually updated the exact location of the truck as it continued westbound on I-12. Nadler and other motorists positioned themselves in a manner that prevented additional westbound traffic from approaching the unpredictable driver. As Nadler was relaying the position of the truck, 911 operators and Troop personnel were updating responding Troopers. The closest Trooper was able to position his unit on the right shoulder of I-12 west of the Pumpkin Center exit. As the truck approached the Trooper, it veered off the right lane and crashed into the rear of the Trooper’s unit. Troopers say they suspect the driver of the truck, Bradley Burch, was impaired on heroin at the time of the crash. Burch and the Trooper both sustained minor injuries in the crash. Burch was arrested and booked into the Tangipahoa Parish Jail for DWI, Reckless Operation, and Driving with a Suspended License. Troopers would like to remind motorists to remain vigilant while traveling. These callers exemplified the proper approach to notifying law enforcement of a dangerous impaired driver. Louisiana motorists wishing to inform Troopers of dangerous roadway conditions are reminded to call *LSP [*577] to be connected with their nearest Troop.
Springer Spaniel helps Oregon State Police find drug trafficers
Harley is a 3-year-old springer spaniel, and is an Oregon State Police drug dog who loves his job. Harley works with Senior Trooper Jake Ledbetter from the state police office in Winchester. The dog came from Belfast, Ireland, and got his job mainly because of the change in marijuana laws in Oregon. When the state legalized marijuana, Ledbetter’s black lab, Charger, who was trained to detect marijuana, among other drugs, had to be retired. So Harley has been a part of the enforcement team for about a year now, and Ledbetter said he is spot on when it comes to detecting drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin. It’s a job that can be pretty tough because of the effort by drug runners to disguise drugs with sophisticated packing and hiding them in hard to find places in all sizes of vehicles. “When we’re finding these drugs, they’re wrapping them sometimes six or seven times in cellophane and vacuum sealing, and put grease and other stuff around it to try to prevent the dog from finding it,” said Ledbetter. But Harley is extremely successful anyway, said Ledbetter. He is a high energy dog, and when he gets focused on finding drugs, he is relentless in his pursuit. “When you have a dog that has a high hunt drive, it’s a lot easier to train them, because you’re getting them focused on an area and once they’re imprinted on that, they want to go find it non-stop,” he said. Since February of 2016, Harley and Trooper Ledbetter have located and confiscated 33 pounds of Methamphetamine, 2.3 pounds of Heroin, and 11.4 pounds of cocaine in 33 different incidents, according to Capt. Bill Fugate, the public information officer for the Oregon State Police. Even though marijuana is not the focus any longer, Harley still gets plenty of chances to do his job. Ledbetter said he’ll use the dog anywhere from 50 to 70 times in a year. The other more dangerous drugs, that the dog is trained to find, have increased in frequency in the county. “Coke and heroin, it’s unbelievable how much of the stuff is going through this freeway,” Ledbetter said of Interstate 5. “Heroin was unheard of five years ago, very rarely would you see it and now it’s everywhere.” Harley has made a lot of drug finds in the past year, but there have been times that the dog will indicate a find, and they just can’t locate it. Sometimes, it’s just too well hidden, but the dog has definitely picked up the scent and knows it’s there. “We call it an unconfirmed alert, because we couldn’t find anything, but obviously we were looking for a reason,” Ledbetter said. The dog is very accurate, the officer added. In fact, about 95 percent of the time drugs are found. A lot of times, drugs are hidden in sophisticated compartments ... in the hydraulics, under trunk latches and other hard-to-find places. Ledbetter said the state police had to retire several dogs, although some were actually sold to other agencies that are on the lookout for large quantities of marijuana being shipped out of Oregon to other states where it is still not legal. He said there is a lot of that activity, and a lot of officers, in eastern Oregon especially, are coming across loads of marijuana headed out of the state. Because of the increase in the number of semis that are hauling illegal drugs, officers are now starting to focus more on the trucks and Ledbetter said it can be a big challenge. “They have a legitimate reason for travel,” Ledbetter said, and he added that makes it tougher to spot the trucks that might have contraband on board. It took about four months to get Harley trained and certified, and Ledbetter continues to train him, working with him every day. Ledbetter said the dog has been a tremendous help in finding the illegal narcotics, and he is the reason a lot of them never made it to the streets. Ledbetter said the dog will work five to seven years before he is retired. The two get pretty attached to each other after being together everyday. “It’s weird, I spend more waking hours with the dog than I do my family,” he said. “Harley’s been a real valuable addition to the force.”
Florida Highway Patrol revitalize their Arrive Alive campaign
Recognizing that 2015 and 2016 have had a spike in serious injury and fatality crashes, the Florida Highway Patrol revitalized their Arrive Alive campaign, which was originally unveiled in 1970. FHP has partnered with many of the law enforcement agencies within the state to target high crash corridors, or hot spots in order to drive down serious crashes. The Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Sheriff's Association, Florida Police Chiefs Association, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration have all voiced their support of this initiative. The Arrive Alive campaign will incorporate law enforcement presence, media outreach and road safety assessments in high crash and high crime areas through a data driven approach. The information on each area will be shared with each partner agency and the area will be patrolled by both the local agency and the Florida Highway Patrol. Florida currently boasts a population of over 20 million residents and hosted over 105 million visitors in 2015. Considering the population explosion in Florida, the amount of visitors and the amount of highway freight transportation, the Florida Highway Patrol recognizes that leveraging technology and a partnership approach to traffic safety is a necessity in our effort to save lives. The Patrol is utilizing a web based portal to collect data from each law enforcement officer working the hot spots in order to provide quarterly updates to our partners and to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. This is not an enforcement campaign, this is a sustained statewide effort to reduce serious traffic crashes. Together with their partners, the Florida Highway Patrol hopes this campaign will work towards driving down the number of traffic fatalities in the state.
Vermont State Police Bomb Squad Robot
On a recent morning, two members of the Vermont State Police Bomb Squad stared intently at two screens inside their truck parked outside the Williston barracks, their hands pressing nobs and softly moving joysticks on the computer's operation board. The mission: retrieve a hat and gloves from a visiting photographer's camera bag using two of the squad's three robots. It was gentle work, as the robots arms carefully hovered over the bag, grabbed its zippers and prodded the bag. Within 10 minutes, the robots had successfully handed the items to the photographer. "Mission complete," said Sgt. Bill Sweeney, a member of the squad. "That wasn't even that hard." While this task was just to show what the robots can do, the nine-member Bomb Squad faces real situations where the machines are used, said Sgt. Paul Ravelin, another squad member. The robots were seen in action on Jan. 6 at the Federal Building on Elmwood Avenue in Burlington after a suspicious package was found at the post office. "It was an unknown to us," Ravelin said this week of the suspicious package. "We had information to believe that the package we were looking at had been moved by someone prior to us being there. Not knowing what it was we were approaching, we felt the best way to do it was to send a robot down and see what we would be dealing with." Each call for the Bomb Squad is different, and members typically initially assess whether the robots are needed. "We can put a robot downrange, instead of having human beings exposed to an unknown threat," Ravelin said. "We can do everything a human can do, but we can actually do it robotically." The squad uses three robots that are different sizes: a large robot that weighs about 500 pounds, a medium robot which weighs 125 pounds, and a small "point-man" robot weighs about 15 pounds and stands about one foot off the ground. Vermont State Police used funding from U.S. Homeland Security for the robots, Ravelin said. The largest robot cost $140,000, the medium robot was about $150,000, and the smallest robot cost about $25,000. The middle robot is the newest, purchased about a year-and-a-half ago, Ravelin said. The two larger robots have arms that can grab objects, and the smaller robot is used for reconnaissance. The largest robot, which is 14 years old and made of steel and aluminum, can also drag up objects up to 600 pounds. "A bomb tech in a suit weighs up to 300 pounds on average, so if a bomb tech goes down, we can use the robot to go down and pull that tech into safety," Ravelin said. The largest robot also allows for two-way communication: members of the bomb squad speak from a walkie talkie inside the squad truck, and those in the field can speak back through a speaker on the bot. Ravelin said the two-way communication could come in handy during a hostage situation when other attempts by crisis negotiators to contact a subject are unsuccessful. The robots have yet to be used for that purpose, but Bomb Squad members have trained for that possibility, he said. The Bomb Squad trains at least three times per year, sometimes alongside members of the Vermont Air National Guard, Ravelin said. The nine-member Bomb Squad team responds to about 25 to 50 calls per year throughout the state, according to the Vermont State Police website."If we can minimize the amount of time that we're actually standing over an IED, that's better for us in the long run," Ravelin said. "And if we're utilizing the robot to do that, and that's the better option, we'll take that opportunity every time."
MA State Trooper Helped Deliver a Baby
A State Police trooper pulled over on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Blandford Saturday morning to help what he thought was a driver and a disabled car. Instead the trooper ended up helping deliver a baby. Trooper Carlos Nunez saw the car in the breakdown lane of the highway around 1:30 a.m. He soon learned a woman inside the car was in labor. "Trooper Nunez immediately requested an ambulance, but after an on-scene medical assessment, he determined that a delivery was imminent," State Police said. "Trooper Nunez made preparations for the delivery and, a short time later, the woman gave birth in the vehicle." The trooper provided care to the mother and newborn until Westfield EMS arrived. The mother and child were transported to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.
Troopers Work Security in Washington During Inauguration
A group of local Utah Highway Patrol troopers were part of a 40 member squad sent to Washington, D.C. this week, to provide security during the inauguration events for President Donald Trump. Trooper Phil Rawlinson was one of four men, chosen from Section 1 that covers Cache, Rich and Box Elder counties. He, Sgt. Jason Kendrick and troopers, Josh Preece and Jason Jensen were selected last year, before Trump was even elected. Rawlinson said they were flown to Washington Wednesday so they could have a day for orientation. On Thursday, they met with Utah Governor Gary Herbert and received training from the D.C. Metro Police Department. “We were sworn in as U.S. Marshals just for the event,” explained Rawlinson. “When the inauguration parade was over the swearing-in, deputization expired. That was a once in a lifetime opportunity.” The troopers woke up at 2 a.m. Friday so they could be to their post by 5 a.m. They, along with the other troopers from Utah and Colorado, were stationed on a side street off Pennsylvania Ave., about 200 yds. from the east-side of the White House. Rawlinson said they could hear on their radios about the protests that were happening in nearby areas. Most of the people around them though were peaceful and expressed appreciation for them being there. “There were a few protesters and things that we did see, carrying signs and chanting, but we had more people than we could count come up to us and say 'thanks for being here, we are so glad you are here.' Some would say, 'Oh you're from Utah,' and they would have some tie to the state. They would tell us they had been to Park City skiing or another man said he went to Alta High School. “They were pretty happy to see the Beehive and thanked us for being there. They were happy that there was a big showing of law enforcement because they felt safe while they were there.” All together, more than 3,200 troopers, officers, and deputies from around the United States helped with security. Rawlinson said it was special for him to be with other law enforcement members from around the country. “I have never been to Washington D.C. and so I think being part of history and being with other police officers was something pretty neat. The troopers remained at their posts for thirteen-and-half-hours Friday, until the parade and festivities were over around 6 p.m. Rawlinson said even though it was a long day, it was a once in a lifetime experience that he's glad he got to do. “It was a pretty neat opportunity for all of us to be able to come and be a part of it. To be here as a police officer and wear the Utah Highway Patrol uniform here in Washington D.C. is pretty cool." The troopers flew back to Utah on Saturday.
Georgia State Patrol to Help with Inaugural Security
Dozens of Georgia state troopers are in Washington this week to help with security at the inauguration of Donald Trump as president. The Department of Public Safety on Thursday posted a series of photos to social media accounts showing members of the State Patrol in the nation’s capitol preparing for Friday’s swearing-in. The troopers were sworn in as temporary deputy U.S. marshal’s. Many states send law enforcement officers to major national events to help with security. Several Georgia units were in Cleveland and Philadelphia this summer for the Republican and Democratic national conventions.
Oregon State Trooper Takes First Steps Since Shooting
The Oregon State trooper critically injured in a Christmas Day shootout has taken his first crucial steps, literally, toward going home from the hospital. Nic Cederberg's family on Monday posted a video on YouTube showing the trooper in gray pants and a black t-shirt taking 26 steps with the support of nearby hospital workers. Cederberg suffered multiple gunshot wounds after he chased a homicide suspect in Washington County. "On Saturday, he walked 342 feet using a walker during his five physical therapy sessions," brother Jeff Cederberg wrote Monday on his Facebook page. "And on Thursday, he walked for the very first time since the shooting. He was only able to cover about six to ten feet before taking a short break, but it was much needed progress for him and for us." Jeff Cederberg could not be immediately reached for comment. A GoFundMe page, which also shows the YouTube video, has raised $86,595 out of a $100,000 goal from 1,202 people as of noon Tuesday. His brother was shot seven times at close range, in both arms, his abdomen and spinal canal, Jeff Cederberg wrote on Jan. 9. A bulletproof vest blocked another five bullets that police say were shot from James Tylka, who is suspected of killing his estranged wife, Katelynn Armand, in King City. Cederberg has suffered intense pain and numbness "described as having his right leg wrapped in white hot metal," his brother wrote. "Simply blowing on it would send him up the pain scale." But the pain did not discourage the trooper, and as the suffering subsided, Cederberg's resolve has swelled. He is signing up for as much extra physical therapy his facility will allow. "He always sets the bar higher the next day," Jeff Cederberg wrote, "because the only way he said he is willing to go home is if he can walk through the front door on his own with (wife) Hayley Shelton right beside him."