More than 1,000 ticketed during Illinois State Police distracted-driving blitz
If drivers didn’t know then, they should have heard by now that last week was distracted driver awareness week. And police around the state issued tickets. Lots of tickets. Illinois State Police said from April 24-28, troopers statewide issued 1,146 distracted-driving tickets and 984 distracted-driving warnings. It wasn’t just about writing tickets. Troopers and police also wanted to raise awareness about the dangers of driving while distracted. “I am extremely proud of the enforcement efforts by the ISP. Our officers proudly represented the ISP in this statewide campaign,” said ISP Col. Tad Williams. “Additionally, our Safety Education Officers did a great job educating the motoring public through a number of press conferences, media releases and multitude of social media contacts.” The use of cell phones for all drivers, regardless of age, while operating a vehicle in a school zone or construction zone is prohibited under Illinois law. Using a cell phone to text, compose, read or send electronic messages or access the Internet while driving is illegal. The violation for the first offense is $120 and can increase with multiple violations or when a violation occurs in a work or school zone. Texting and driving is a choice that requires drivers to take their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and mind off the task of driving, according to state police. Illinois State Police have been asking all motorists to “Drop it and Drive.” Swansea and Fairview Heights police also conducted a recent crackdown aimed at distracted driving. In two hours on April 27, Swansea and Fairview Heights officers set up on the corner of Illinois 159 and Frank Scott Parkway — a spot that has seen 65 accidents since 2015. An officer on a grassy corner set up with binoculars, looking for drivers on their phones, while officers in their cars stopped the offending drivers. In two hours, the task force issued 39 tickets.
South Carolina Highway Patrol names first female Captain
The South Carolina Highway Patrol has named its first ever female captain. The agency announced Friday that Tara Laffin has been promoted to her new rank. She succeeds Capt. E.J. Talbot, who recently announced his retirement after 27 years with the department. In her new role, she'll be the commander of the highway patrol's training division. "This is an exciting and historical day for the South Carolina Highway Patrol as we not only name the first female captain, but we have an opportunity to promote a strong and forward-thinking leader for this key unit in our agency,” said SCDPS Director Leroy Smith. “Capt. Laffin has spent her entire career with the Highway Patrol, including four years in the Training Unit. Capt. Talbot has done an outstanding job and we look forward to continuing this tradition of excellence in Training.” Laffin has been with the highway patrol for 22 years. She's most recently served as lieutenant in the Emergency Management Unit, which leads the state’s traffic response during hurricanes and other large-scale disasters. From 2007-2011, she served in the HP Training Unit as a sergeant and corporal. Prior to that, she served as a corporal in Lexington County. Capt. Laffin began her career with SCHP in 1994 in Dillon County and worked as a road trooper in Kershaw and Richland Counties.
New Mexico graduates two dozen new officers
The state has two dozen new State Police officers. The department celebrated the graduation of 24 cadets Friday morning at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The 91st recruit class spent the last 22 weeks training, and Friday they stood up taking the oath, receiving their certificates, and finally becoming State Police officers. “It makes it worth being a part of, you know, the tradition, pride and honor that we have is highly upheld,” said Allan Ramirez, NMSP graduate. Earlier this year, State Police told KRQE News 13 they were about 100 officers short.
New look for Pennsylvania State Police cars
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The color and design of Pennsylvania State Police patrol cars has stayed the same for the past 26 years...but a change is underway. Like most businesses and organizations, the State Police have undergone a re-branding strategy. The emphasis being on the men and women who wear the State Police uniform, and the uniform itself. The new color is sterling gray. It's easy to notice that the cars now match the color of the state police uniform. The new patrol cars also have the word "TROOPER" in enlarged letters along the side panels. An internal committee, comprised of employees from throughout the agency, believes the color gray has historically been associated with the Pennsylvania State Police. The committee also hopes that people will feel a sense of professionalism and security when they see the gray car with the word "TROOPER" arrive at an emergency scene. The current white cars, with black and gold trim, will slowly be replaced as they hit higher mileage over the next three years. For that reason,there's only a few gray cars on the road right now. The first one to be delivered to Erie County, last week, went to the Troop "E" recruiting officer. "It's a push for public relations. They are the eye of the State Police. They're attending the job fairs. They're in the public more often to get that image out quickly. That's why they administered those to them first,"said Tpr. Cindy Owens, PSP-Erie Community Service Officer. There was no extra cost for State Police to purchase a gray vehicle over a white one. The new cars do have extra reflective material on them that the old vehicles do not have. That material costs $67 dollars per car.
Man found guilty after largest Meth bust in Arkansas history
A federal jury found a California truck driver guilty Thursday after he was found with millions of dollars worth of meth during a traffic stop in Arkansas in 2015. A federal jury found Javier Leon, 56, of Moreno Valley, Calif., guilty of Possessing With the Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine in a case that involved the largest amount of methamphetamine ever seized in Arkansas. Law enforcement found more than 260 pounds of meth — worth millions of dollars — in the back of Leon’s tractor-trailer while he was traveling through Lonoke in 2015. Leon will be sentenced at a later date. “This seizure had enough methamphetamine to supply every man, woman, and child in Little Rock,” Patrick C. Harris, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, said. “Thanks to the efforts of several law enforcement agencies and agents, this significant amount of methamphetamine will never hit the streets, and never poison our communities. This jury verdict makes clear that whatever level of involvement you have with this drug—as a seller, user, or courier—there will be justice served and punishment delivered.” Testimony during the trial established that the 260 pounds of methamphetamine -- which was broken into smaller, individual-size portions -- could have been enough to serve more than 300,000 people, with a potential street value of $7 to $8 million. Leon owned his own 18-wheel tractor-trailer and drove for California furniture shipping company American West. On March 30, 2015, while heading east on Interstate 40, Leon pulled over and parked illegally on an exit ramp in Lonoke. Now-retired Arkansas State Police Corporal Olen Craig made contact with Leon, and the state police then searched the trailer after a drug-detection dog signaled drugs were present. Arkansas State Police Corporal Chase Melder located the meth, which included more than 22 pounds of powder meth and more than 240 pounds of liquid meth, amongst a load of furniture destined for Alabama and the Atlanta area. The liquid meth was contained in multiple five-gallon plastic jugs, similar to the type of jugs used with water coolers. “Stopping drug traffickers traveling across Arkansas highways is a priority for state troopers, particularly the department’s criminal interdiction unit,” Colonel William J. Bryant, Director of the Arkansas State Police, said. “This case represents a major victory in stopping illegal drugs from getting to a destination and our troopers are committed to staying in the fight.” The DEA became involved in the case following the seizure and continued to investigate Leon. In addition to the guilty verdict, the jury found that the 18-wheel tractor-trailer is to be forfeited. “The federal conviction of Javier Leon sends a strong message to criminals that we take methamphetamine trafficking very seriously in the Eastern District of Arkansas,” Matthew Barden, Assistant Special Agent in Charge with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), said. “The DEA will continue working with our law enforcement partners and pursue those who threaten our communities with the distribution of methamphetamine and other illegal and dangerous drugs.” The statutory penalty for possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine is not less than 10 years’ imprisonment, not more than life, a $10,000,000 fine, or both. The investigation was conducted by the DEA, Arkansas State Police, Little Rock Police Department, and Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office.
Drugged driving more fatal than drunk driving, report says
For the first time, data shows that drivers killed in car crashes in the United States were more likely to be on drugs than drunk, according a new report. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) released a study that found 43 percent of drivers tested in fatal crashes had drugs of any kind – prescription or illegal – in their system, compared to 37 percent who showed alcohol levels above the legal limit. The organizations say that concerns about drug-impaired driving have escalated recently, with more states legalizing marijuana and record numbers of people dying from drug overdoses amid the opioid epidemic. "Drugged driving has increased dramatically and many of today's impaired drivers are combining two or more substances, which has a multiplicative effect on driver impairment," Ralph. S. Blackman, president and CEO of Responsibility.org, a nonprofit funded by alcohol distillers, said in a statement. Of drivers killed in crashes who tested positive for drugs, 36.5 percent had used marijuana, followed by amphetamines at 9.3 percent, the report found. Researchers used the most recent U.S. state data available from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The report calls for increased training for law enforcement to detect drivers who are on drugs – something that is complicated, police say. Unlike a Breathalyzer test to detect alcohol-impaired drivers, there is no standard roadside test to detect most drugs. "As states across the country continue to struggle with drug-impaired driving, it's critical that we help them understand the current landscape and provide examples of best practices so they can craft the most effective countermeasures," said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of GHSA. The report has several limitations, including that states vary greatly in how many and which drivers are tested, what tests are used, and how test results are reported. Furthermore, the records only record drug presence, not drug concentrations that can be compared to blood-alcohol levels. "Drugged driving is a complicated issue," said the report's author, Dr. Jim Hedlund, a former senior NHTSA official. "The more we can synthesize the latest research and share what's going on around the country to address drug-impaired driving, the better positioned states will be to prevent it."
Ceremony remembers fallen state troopers
George Nowakowski of Duryea retired from the Pennsylvania State Police in 1991, but as he watched the Pennsylvania State Police Memorial Day ceremony at his old barracks, he tearfully said he wished he were back in the line of duty. “I wish I was back,” he said, looking out over the current troop in their uniforms. “These guys are fabulous. They look beautiful and they do their job.” The annual ceremony honored state troopers, specifically those from Troop P, killed in the line of duty throughout the state police’s history. Troop P held their ceremony at its barracks on Wyoming Avenue, one of many held at state police barracks throughout the Commonwealth. Troop P covers Wyoming, Bradford, Sullivan and northern Luzerne counties. In addition to the fallen, the ceremony also honors active and retired members of the state police. “It’s a very nice ceremony. It makes me proud to be working for the Pennsylvania State Police,” said Christine Brewer, a clerk typist at the barracks. “You don’t realize day-to-day what they go through and it’s nice that we have these to honor the current and also our retired members.” The ceremony featured a roll call of the 10 members of Troop P who have fallen in the line of duty over the years, speakers and the laying of a wreath to commemorate the day. The ceremony allows active and retired troopers to remember those before them who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. For Nowakowski, coming back to recognize and remember those troopers often feels like a reunion with his old troop and fellow retired troopers. “It’s the greatest day in the world,” Nowakowski said. State police continue to mourn the loss of Trooper Landon Eugene Weaver, who was killed in December and honored statewide at Tuesday ceremonies. Weaver served with the state police for one year with Troop G in Bedford. He was the 97th member of the Pennsylvania State Police killed in the line of duty in the force’s 112 year history. “That memory is always in the back of our minds, we never really forget it,” Trooper Tom Kelly said. “Every day we go into work, we do our job, but a day like today brings that from the back of our mind to the forefront of our mind,” Kelly said the annual ceremony serves as a necessary reminder of the difficulties state troopers often face. “It’s good to keep that memory alive and not let what happened be forgotten,” Kelly said.
New Jersey State Police's 2016 Trooper of the Year
The New Jersey State Police is proud to announce that Tpr. I James Agens, of the Mobile Safe Freight Unit, is the 2016 Trooper of the Year as a result of his year-long patrol efforts, which led to the seizure of 79 kilograms of heroin and 10 kilograms of cocaine with a total estimated street value of $6.7 million. As a result of the nationwide heroin epidemic, Colonel Rick Fuentes directed State Police command to initiate a plan to detect and dismantle the bulk amount of heroin being transported to and through New Jersey. As part of this effort, Tpr. I Agens distinguished himself as a result of his diligent criminal patrol, bulk drug seizures, and unwavering dedication. On May 15, 2016, Tpr. I Agens stopped a tractor-trailer in Warren County for a safety inspection. During the stop, Tpr. I Agens detected evidence of criminal activity, which led to a search and subsequent seizure of 15 kilograms of heroin. On August 23, 2016, Tpr. I Agens was conducting a commercial vehicle safety inspection in Warren County when he once again detected evidence of criminal activity. As a result of his investigation, 64 kilograms of heroin and 10 kilograms of cocaine were seized. This is the largest cold-stop heroin seizure to date in U.S. history. Tpr. I Agens’ investigative efforts and skills are extraordinary. His efforts have brought great pride and distinction to himself and the Division of State Police. Tpr. I Agens’ commitment and dedication exemplify the core values of the New Jersey State Police: Honor, Duty, and Fidelity.
Oberle Elementary thanks state troopers with giant heart formation
Students and staff members at Oberle Elementary School in Bear gathered in the school parking lot on Monday to form a heart shape and say "thank you" to Delaware State Police troopers. The ceremony was part of a statewide outpouring of support in honor of Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard, who was killed in the line of duty last week. After the students arranged themselves in the shape of a heart, a teacher used a drone to photograph the formation from above. Students later delivered video from the event and handmade cards to troopers at Troop 2. Oberle is the second Christina School District school to pay tribute to Ballard. Last week, 600 Keene Elementary students walked to Troop 2 to lay flowers and thank troopers.
Off-duty trooper, good Samaritan receive special Highway Patrol awards
The fiery car crash in Bath back in February could've killed as many as 10 people. That wreck could've easily turned tragic had it not been for the quick thinking of an off-duty South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper and a passing motorist. Today, they were honored for their lifesaving, split-second decisions. Highway Trooper Cortney Paul received the Superintendent's Award after her efforts with the car crash. "It was me doing my job. I was trained for this. This is who I am and this is what I do," says Trooper Paul. The nomination goes through a special awards committee in the Highway Patrol. "They hear all of the award nominations and then they recommend the actual award. Then, it's approved by the superintendent of the Highway Patrol," explains Major Rick Miller with the Highway Patrol. It's an award that is given out to troopers for their efforts, but the honor is still present. Trooper Paul appreciates the fact that the community gets to see the two getting presented with the award to help them celebrate everyone surviving. Good Samaritan Justin Dirksen was given the Life-Saving Award, which has the same process at Trooper's Paul. This type of award is the highest award given to civilians. Dirksen didn't think the award was really necessary because he thought his actions weren't anything out-of-the-ordinary. Having the ability to chat with the six teenagers was one way to bring closure to the whole incident. "It's good to see them progressing, moving on with their lives, becoming the young ladies that they are. It's really fortunate to know that they'll attend graduation and move on with their lives," explains Trooper Paul. "It's nice to finally meet them all. It was an interesting night, so I didn't get to know all of them or even know their names at that point. It's nice to meet them and know they're fine and that they're going to turn out okay," says Dirksen. The teenage survivors continue to heal from wounds both seen, and unseen, and say they remain thankful for the support they've seen from everyone in the Aberdeen community.
Utah Highway Patrol K9 sniffs out 50 pounds of meth hidden beneath trap doors
Troopers assisted by a K9 located 50 pounds of methamphetamine hidden beneath two trap doors inside a car after a traffic stop near the Utah/Arizona border Tuesday. According to a press release from the Utah Highway Patrol, a trooper stopped a 2010 Ford Taurus travelling northbound on I-15 near mile post 2 around 4:30 p.m. and called for a K9 trooper after the initial investigation. The K9 indicated the presence of drugs, and a further search revealed two trap doors--one each under the driver's and front passenger seats. Once the trap doors were opened, troopers located 42 brick-shaped packages wrapped in plastic that contained 50 pounds of methamphetamine. “How much they’re exactly producing? I don’t know, but we’re seeing more of it on the roads,” said Capt. Tyler Kotter with the State Bureau of Investigation. Police arrested the driver, 27-year-old Rudy Ramirez of Las Vegas, and booked him into the Washington County Jail. Booking records indicate he faces charges for drug distribution, possession of drug paraphernalia, and using a vehicle with a contraband compartment. Kotter said arrests like these do more to combat the spread of drugs than simply remove a single load from the supply. “I think it sends a message to those organizations that are involved in this activity to say we are looking for this and it’s not acceptable to have that going through our state,” Kotter said. Police believe the drugs originated in California and were being taken to the upper mid-west.
Officers begin new campaign to stop aggressive drivers after string of fatal wrecks
Officers announced a new campaign Wednesday to target aggressive drivers in the area after a string of fatal wrecks in Horry County. Patrolmen from the South Carolina Highway Patrol, Myrtle Beach Police Department and Horry County Police Department will be out in force looking for aggressive drivers to “target zero traffic deaths” this weekend. “Beginning tomorrow, motorists will see more blue lights as an enhanced enforcement begins in an effort to stop aggressive driving,” Major Melvin Warren of the Highway Patrol said at a press conference Wednesday. “Our target zero goal is to reduce fatalities and collisions on our states and roadways caused by aggressive and careless driving behaviors.” Twelve people have died in fatal collisions throughout the county so far this year, according to the S.C. Department of Public Safety. “Many drivers, whether they are local or traveling through our state all seem to have one thing in common. They are in a hurry,” Warren said. “They are too often making bad choices behind the wheel that have deadly consequences.” Officers from local agencies will focus on aggressive and distracted driving behaviors “that put us all in harm’s way,” he said. During the three-day blitz, patrolmen will keep a close eye on heavily traveled roadways, including the U.S. 17 and U.S. 501 corridors. “Our goal is to stop aggressive driving so we can stop the tragedy of highway fatalities,” said Lt. Greg Caulder of the Highway Patrol. “Last year, 70 people died on Horry County roadways.” “We need every driver to first take an inventory of their own behaviors behind the wheel such as slowing down, of course buckling up, leaving more space, signaling when you make a lane change and please don’t pick a fight with the driver who cuts you off. In short, get back to the basics of courteous driving,” Caulder said. “Our goal is to use proactive enforcement with an eye towards changing driving behavior in ultimately reducing traffic deaths,” said Capt. Gil Owens, who leads the statewide target zero team with the Highway Patrol. “We need every motorist to join us.” The city of Myrtle Beach has had two fatal wrecks so far this year, said Myrtle Beach police Chief Warren Gall, adding that his team looks forward to working with troopers to target zero deaths this weekend. The Horry County Police Department is dedicating 18 officers to the initiative this weekend, said HCPD Chief Deputy Lance Winburn. “We look forward to this opportunity, hoping it will make a difference in our community.”
49 new troopers become part of the Washington State Patrol
At a ceremony held in the Capitol Rotunda this afternoon, 49 Washington State Patrol (WSP) troopers were sworn in by the Associate Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court Mary E. Fairhurst. They were presented their commission cards by Governor Jay Inslee and Chief John R. Batiste, who welcomed them into an organization known and trusted by the citizens of Washington State. After completing over 1,000 hours of training, these men and women will join Washington's premier law enforcement organization. The Washington State Patrol Academy produces approximately three cadet classes each biennium, which accounts for about 100 to 120 new troopers. Historically, only about four to six percent of the total number of applicants makes the grade to become WSP troopers. "The 49 cadets graduating today endured a rigorous application process, extensive background investigation, and received the best training, unmatched anywhere else in the nation," said Chief John Batiste. "Today, they will join the ranks of Washington's finest, as troopers of the Washington State Patrol." A tradition that began 96 years ago on June 21, 1921, when six brave men kick-started their Indian motorcycles, strapped on an arm band, and started a proud tradition known today as the Washington State Patrol. The tradition continues to this day with the graduation of the 107th Trooper Basic Training Class at the Capitol Rotunda, signaled by the stream of shiny white patrol vehicles parked in the lanes leading up to the Capitol steps.
Delaware Corporal gunned down while investigating a suspicious vehicle
Corporal Stephen Ballard was shot and killed while investigating a suspicious vehicle at a gas station on Pulaski Highway, near Salem Church Road, in Bear, Delaware. He made contact with two people he observed in the vehicle, at which point of the men began struggling with him. The man pushed Corporal Ballard away from him and began to run. After taking several steps he turned around and opened fire on Corporal Ballard, fatally wounding him. Responding officers apprehended one of the subjects at the scene. The second subject fled to his home where he barricaded himself inside. Corporal Ballard had served with the Delaware State Police for 8-1/2 years and was assigned to Troop 2, Glasgow. He is survived by his wife.
Moving Over: Trooper's vehicle hit while conducting traffic stop
For Washington State Patrol (WSP) Troopers, the highway serves as an office. On April 14, 2017, a WSP cruiser was struck along the highway injuring the trooper. In this case, the trooper was in the middle of a traffic stop along Interstate five near Fife when he was injured and transported to a nearby hospital for neck and back pain as well as facial lacerations. “Each and every time we turn on our lights and get out of the car, we know we are stepping into potential danger from our fellow motorists passing by,” says WSP Field Operations Captain Tim Coley.” Tragically, last year, 15 officers around the country were killed after being struck by a vehicle.” According to preliminary investigative reports, the driver of the car was driving drowsy, which may be a contributing factor to the collision. This incident puts a spotlight on the dangerous reality that some drivers aren’t paying attention while on the road. This behavior puts other drivers and trooper’s lives at risk. This collision, along with 29 other patrol cars hit just last year, were all preventable. “Don’t let distractions, drowsiness, or impairment lead to the injury or death of your fellow Washingtonians, especially those out trying to make your journey safer,” says Captain Coley. According to the “Move Over” law, RCW 46.61.212, drivers approaching an emergency zone are required to either move over to another lane in the same direction, if it is safe to do so, or if a driver is unable to move over safely, proceed with caution and reduce the speed of their vehicle. Emergency vehicles are defined as police cruisers, fire vehicles, medical units, tow trucks and vehicles providing roadside assistance which make use of hazard lights. “Our request of the public is simple: stay alert and stay safe,” says Captain Coley. “Just like you, we travel the roadways every day with the goal of making them safer so we can all get back home.”