South Carolina Highway Patrol, emergency officials prep for 2 million visitors for the eclipse

SCHP solar eclipse

Planning a road trip for this month’s big eclipse?  Be prepared for traffic, and for a heavy law enforcement presence.  “Any of those major thoroughfares or major routes, we will be monitoring them on a 24/7 basis the weekend before and day of the eclipse,” said Lance Cpl. Matt Southern.  The exact number of state troopers stationed between Beaufort County and Charleston along I-95 or U.S. 17 could not be provided, but additional manpower from South Carolina Highway Patrol headquarters and State Transport Police is being added across the Palmetto State.  The State recently reported that 160 extra state troopers will be stationed along the I-26 corridor between Columbia and Charleston during the eclipse. While the major roads leading into the path of the eclipse from Beaufort County will certainly have significant monitoring from the Highway Patrol, there is a reason more northern cities and roads are receiving special attention.  “The path of the eclipse goes from Greenville into Columbia and then down into Charleston, so that is why there is such a major focus there,” said Southern.  Planning for the eclipse began last year for the Highway Patrol, which has partnered with the state’s Emergency Management Division and Department of Transportation to prepare for the eclipse, and Southern feels confident that together they are ready to handle the additional traffic burden it will bring on.  “This is not a natural disaster,” said Southern.  “We plan all the time for natural disasters, hurricanes and things where there’s a lot of traffic.  We know the exact timetable on the eclipse, so we’re able to put our resources in place ahead of it and be ready on an exact timetable.”  Anywhere between a half million and 2 million people are expected to travel to South Carolina for the eclipse, which will have a major impact on roads throughout the state.  The South Carolina Department of Transportation is planning to suspend lane closures the weekend of the eclipse, and the Emergency Management Division has formulated a readiness plan.  “Be prepared for a lot of people,” said Derrec Becker, public information officer with SCEMD.  “Go ahead and make sure your car is filled up with gas.  Go ahead and buy groceries.  Give yourself extra time to get where you need to go, and prepare for long lines.”  Rob Perry, state traffic management engineer for the South Carolina Department of Transportation predicts traffic on par with the 4th of July weekend, perhaps worse.  Traffic issues will be exacerbated by the fact that unlike other high traffic events which are localized to certain cities or tourist destinations, this month’s eclipse will traverse the entire state.  It should be a magical experience, but Southern stressed the importance of readiness.  “The one thing we’re asking the public is to be prepared,” said Southern.  “If you have no desire to participate in the eclipse, the best thing you can do is stay off the roads. That will really help us.  If you have to get out in traffic give yourself ample time to get from Point A to Point B and expect traffic not just on the day of the eclipse but the days leading up to it.”

To watch video, go to http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article165207942.html.

8/9/17

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Texas Department of Public Safety graduates 48 new highway patrol troopers

Texas DPS graduation August 5 2017

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw was joined by Texas State Representative Mark Keough as the department commissioned 48 men and women as the state’s newest Highway Patrol Troopers.  This 11-week advanced recruit school was specifically designed for current and eligible law enforcement officers to train to become troopers.  This school provided officers an accelerated path to becoming a Trooper, versus the standard course that spans more than 20 weeks.  The C-2017 class includes four women and six military veterans, and the graduates represented 39 different law enforcement agencies.   The troopers began the 11-week training academy in May.  Instruction included counter terrorism, traffic, and criminal law, arrest and control procedures, accident reconstruction, first aid and Spanish.  They also received training in the use of force, communication skills, firearms, driving, criminal interdiction, cultural diversity and physical fitness.  The new troopers will report to duty stations across Texas in the coming weeks and spend the first six months in on-the-job training.

8/9/17

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Grant money will put more state troopers on the road

Alabama state police receive grants

Alabamians can expect to see additional troopers on the roadways thanks to Gov. Kay Ivey.  Ivey has awarded grants totaling $3.5 million to support law enforcement efforts.  According to the Alabama Department of Law Enforcement Cpl. Tracy Nelson, the agency will utilize the funds by having every available trooper on Alabama roadways. “The funds will allow us to have extra funding available for overtime,” Nelson said.  “With funding available for overtime we can increase patrol and safety-checkpoint locations across the state.”  Ivey has indicated the purpose of the grant money is to make Alabama roads safer by preventing injuries and fatalities.  “At this point our fatality rate has increased by 10 from this time last year,” said Trooper Kevin Cook.  “We all have concern in this number.  Going at this rate 2017 will be more deadly than 2016 and records show 2016 was one of the deadliest years in Alabama’s history.”  Gov. Ivey said in a written release that drivers who get behind the wheel while impaired, or disobey traffic laws, present a danger to every motorist on the road.  “The only way we can change a driver’s behavior is to be visible,” Cook said.  “The more troopers we have on the roadways the more we can target speeding, driving while under the influence and seat belt violations.  Visibility, visibility is the only way we can make our roadways safer.”  A portion of the funds received will also go toward the “Click It or Ticket” program and the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” program.  “The time frame for the ‘Click It or Ticket’ program will wrap up soon,” Cook said.  “Once that program wraps up for 2017, we will start the ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ program.  This program is scheduled to run through September 3.  This program not only targets driving while under the influence on the roadways, but also on Alabama’s waterways.”

8/8/17

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Arkansas State Troopers surprise 14-year-old with act of kindness

ASP buy bike

A small act of kindness made a big difference for one young boy.  Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Investigator Kristi Kirkwood got a visit from 14-year-old Christopher Wooten. Wooten told her he wanted to be an Arkansas State Trooper and had come to the office to start on the path to his career.  Kirkwood, who isn't an Arkansas State Trooper, said she would pass Wooten's message on to some troopers for him.  However, she ended up passing on a very different message.   When Wooten left, Kirkwood noticed his bike was in very bad shape.  It didn't have a seat and the wheels were beaten up.  Kirkwood reached out to Troop G in Hope to see what she could do for Wooten.  Troop G's Cpl. Bernard Pettit then reached out to Pink Behind the Thin Blue Line, a non-profit organization that his wife is a part of.  "We loved the idea," said member Christy Pettit.  According to her, the board voted on and approved buying Wooten a new bike within five minutes.  Wednesday, according to the Arkansas State Police Facebook page, three Miller County members of Troop G and a member of Pink Behind the Thin Blue Line brought a special surprise to Wooten's house.   "Let me see your bike.  I heard you didn't have a seat on it.  I may have one in my car," said Cpl. Pettit.  Wooten brought out his bike for Cpl. Pettit who then walked to his car.  "Well Chris, I'm sorry I don't have a seat, but I do have a bike," said Cpl. Pettit.  Wooten was speechless. The troopers reassured him several times that the bike was for him.  "It was so precious," said Christy Pettit.  In addition to the bike, Wooten also got to spend some time with the troopers.  They "trained him" on patrol procedures, dash cameras, report writing, and even arrest and search procedures, according to the ASP Facebook page.

8/8/17

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Hundreds attend Oklahoma trooper's funeral in Norman

OKHP Meyer funeral

The deeds of evil men were not lost on the Rev. Jerry Jones as he addressed the hundreds of somber state police officers and civilians who sat before him Monday in a college basketball arena.  “We live in a hellish world,” Jones said, his tone calm but stern.  “You do and you see things that we don’t want to see,” Jones said, addressing the troopers present.  “May God bless you, you men and women who wear the uniform.”  Those in attendance at the Lloyd Noble Center gathered for the funeral of Lt. Donald Heath Meyer, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper killed earlier this month during a car chase.   Meyer, 43, had lain stop sticks on Interstate 35 near N 27 in Moore during a July 14 chase, when he was struck by another trooper's cruiser.   Jones and Meyer were both pastors at Anchor Church, 1200 Lakewood Drive, which Meyer and his wife started in their home almost a decade ago.  Meyer joined the Oklahoma Highway Patrol in 2005, after graduating from Oklahoma Baptist University the year before.  He was the 36th Oklahoma trooper to die in the line of duty.  “We ask our troopers to go out and do incredibly dangerous work.  It’s volatile, and sometimes it’s violent," Oklahoma Department of Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson said to those  gathered.   Thompson is a tall, stoic man, but his deep voice wavered as he read to Meyer’s family a proclamation from Gov. Mary Fallin honoring the fallen trooper’s service to the state.  Thompson worked in the same building as Meyer, he recalled after the funeral, and Meyer was just as much a pastor at work as he was from behind the pulpit.  He was quick to put others at ease with a warm smile and handshake.  Meyer’s father-in-law was a trooper, and through that example he saw another opportunity to give, Thompson said.  “He just has a servant’s heart,” Thompson said.  He added that Meyer volunteered to work in Troop A, which covers the metro area and is the biggest and busiest troop in the patrol.  Dozens of Oklahoma state troopers filed into the east entrance of the center Monday morning.  The wives of several troopers dotted the line every five or six officers, their bright dresses standing in stark contrast with the tan trooper uniforms.  State police from every state bordering Oklahoma, as well as some from as far away as Georgia and Illinois, filed in behind them in full dress.  The driver of the fleeing vehicle, D'Angelo Ladon Burgess, 28, was arrested the night of the accident.  Burgess remained in the Cleveland County jail Monday afternoon, held on a $5 million bail.  He was charged Thursday with first-degree murder, eluding a police officer and drug and paraphernalia possession.  At the time of the crash, Burgess was out on bail and facing charges connected to a similar incident the year before. Burgess was arrested in June 2016 after a pursuit that ended when he crashed a car.  Meyer also worked that crash, Ricky Adams, the highway patrol chief, confirmed.  At the funeral, Adams told his fellow troopers he recognizes the dangers involved in situations they face every day.  “They’re uncertain, they’re ambiguous and they’re volatile," Adams said. "Saying all that, we place you there to face down evil and restore order out of chaos.”

8/4/17

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