It is with great appreciation we at the Iowa State Patrol take this opportunity to share with those we serve some simple, yet critical, tips to safely arriving at your given destinations. But first let me begin by sharing with you some of the latest happenings in your State Patrol District.
Let me begin by taking a moment to pay tribute to one of our own. Trooper Gerri McCurdy, of Rockwell City, will be putting on his brown uniform and strapping on his campaign hat for the last time for the Iowa State Patrol on Tuesday after 22 years of dedicated service. As many of you know, McCurdy previously served in several other positions including chief of police in Rockwell City. Throughout this selfless service to the citizens of Iowa, he has maintained a positive and committed work ethic. He served troopers statewide in his capacity as longtime president of the Iowa State Troopers Association. But most importantly, he gave tirelessly of himself to promote highway safety and service to Iowa's citizens and visitors to our state. Every business has those employees who, by their example, make those around them more successful. Trooper McCurdy was certainly one of those employees. He has had a hand in training many of the troopers who continue to work in this area so his impact will not soon be forgotten. One day down the road, another young trooper will hang that No. 229 license plate on the back of his car, and that trooper's training officer will make it clear that he has a great deal to live up to in filling the shoes left behind by Trooper McCurdy. We wish Gerri, and his wife Jane, all the very best for a happy and healthy retirement.
A proud history
The Iowa State Patrol was founded on July 28, 1935, when 50 officers, utilizing 37 cars and 12 motorcycles, began patrolling Iowa's early roadways. More than 3,000 men applied for those 50 precious positions, beginning a strong heritage rooted in pride, dedication and commitment that continues to guide our organization to this day. The tradition of officers' identities began with that very first group of recruits. They were each assigned badge numbers 1-50 according to their size. Though the process has changed slightly in the assignment of badge numbers - that number becoming an integral part of our identities has not. Most troopers would agree that the license plates on their vehicles are a source of great pride and accomplishment within their communities and the law enforcement field. Our command currently consists of two sergeants, a safety education officer and 20 road troopers. The District No. 7 area consists of Kossuth, Pocahontas, Humboldt, Wright, Calhoun, Webster and Hamilton counties.
Stay safe, use common sense
The busy summer travel season began in earnest with the Memorial Day weekend, continues through this July 4 holiday and carries past the upcoming Labor Day festivities.
Throughout this time, it is necessary to be even more mindful of the dangers on the highway - and the simple steps each of us can take to minimize our risks. Traffic safety truly comes down to following very basic, simple and common-sense behaviors to greatly increase your chances of arriving safely at your destination. It begins before you ever leave your home by making certain you buckle your safety belt before every trip, short or long. Safety belts greatly increase your odds of surviving a collision and serve as your very best defense against those actions of other drivers you cannot control. Clearly, abstaining from the use of alcohol and other drugs while driving is a lifesaving choice for you and everyone you encounter on the roadways. It is also critical to obey the posted speed limits as you travel. Speeding really makes up very little time on most trips, and the impact it has on reaction time and avoiding unexpected events is never worth the chance.
Another challenge that has become much more prevalent in recent times involves distractions in motor vehicles. These distractions are contributing significantly more to the number of serious collisions on our highways. These can include cell phone usage, texting, laptop computers, makeup, fast food and the list goes on. These behaviors have become all too commonplace by drivers of motor vehicles. The fact that none of these actions, no matter how inherently dangerous it is agreed they may be, has been prohibited by statute is problematic for enforcement officers. The old adage that "it is difficult to legislate common sense" rings very true. If the action you are taking removes your attention from the highway while closing on one another at 110 miles per hour or more and this does not provide you the motivation you need to set aside the unnecessary distraction, then I would strongly encourage you to pause for a moment and think about a loved one who may have been killed or seriously injured in a needless vehicle collision. Hopefully, that will help you make the right choice. We can't write a law to cover every distraction in a motor vehicle, so the responsibility rests with you each and every time you take to the highways. The fact remains you might be "right" in the eyes of the law in texting while hurdling down the highway, but you or others may end up "dead right" because of it.
Commitment to integrity
It is important that I also acknowledge, at least in broad terms, some of the recent events involving area law enforcement. A few recent happenings have been noted in the media. As they involve personnel issues, we have no latitude to discuss them specifically. But, I feel it important to express to area residents the firm commitment of the Iowa State Patrol to continue to provide you, the citizens, with the most high-integrity service possible. We have no forum to explain with great specificity the details of every high-profile or controversial case in which we become involved. This alone can offer citizens a skewed view by not having all the critical facts. Understand, we stuck our hands up to be public servants and accept this reality as part of our daily operations. Nonetheless, it creates unique challenges. There is also a tendency by some to paint our entire field of law enforcement with one wide brush when improper conduct is merely alleged. This, again, is a reality of our environment. We seek no free passes or a waiver from fair scrutiny. In fact, this oversight by the citizens we serve can prove quite beneficial in continuously improving our processes and operations. My only effort here is to assure everyone that as the Iowa State Patrol approaches its 75th anniversary celebration in 2010, we will continue to provide you with the consistent, professional law enforcement product you have come to expect.
Technology and innovation
Technology is driving exciting and innovative changes in law enforcement like in nearly all industries and businesses. Today's Iowa State Patrol enforcement vehicle is equipped with new radar equipment, video camera systems, in-car computer systems and full-time Internet/network connectivity wherever they may be patrolling. Additionally, all vehicles will soon have automated GPS tracking to more efficiently respond to the needs of motorists on the highway. We will also be converting to complete digital videotaping technology in the near future. We are also nearing completion of adding a rifle to the tools available to each road trooper should the need arise.
None of these exciting changes will distract us from our core beliefs and traditions. Our mission statement proudly declares: "To preserve lives, rights and property through courtesy, service and protection." It is critical that our employees take that mission with them each day they report to Iowa's highways. All of these changes have enhanced our ability to provide you, the citizens, with the best law enforcement product available.
Much of this success has come by working in a cooperative spirit with other area law enforcement agencies. Their contributions to safe communities throughout Iowa are certainly considerable and worthy of high praise. Law enforcement, like so many jobs, can have its thankless moments. But the satisfaction of helping citizens who are truly in need is equally as rewarding. We have created a successful team in Webster County by partnering with the Fort Dodge Police Department and the Sheriff's Department. Our challenge now rests in growing that relationship to continue to meet the demands and needs of our citizenry. Let me offer my assurance that the Iowa State Patrol will continue to make highway safety our first and ultimate priority,s and we will work with our partners to continue to strive for a safer and better community.
Lt. Kelly Hindman is commander of District 7, Iowa State Patrol.