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.