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COLUMN: Riding with a trooper is not for the faint-hearted

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By Candis Carpenter

The good thing about my job is that it’s relatively safe. I have no worries of large machinery lopping my hand off, being run over while doing roadwork, or getting attacked by wild beasts – unless you consider some select people wild beasts.

So when the opportunity arose to “live a little” and go through the Kentucky State Police citizens police academy, I jumped on it.

It’s an interesting course, taught by Trooper Norman Chaffins; chalked full of information from traffic stops to illegal drugs, and offers insight to what officers do in the line of duty.

Part of the course, unbeknown to me, was to go on a “ride-a-long” with a trooper. Piece of cake – write a few tickets, catch a few people with no seatbelt –  how much easier could it get?

So on Oct. 22 I arrived at Post 4 in Elizabethtown to meet my ride-along partner, Trooper Josh Cummings.

 It was a really great way to start the evening off, an hour late, to meet with a State Trooper. Luckily he understood that I made the honest mistake of writing 5 p.m. on the calendar rather than 4 p.m. (Let’s be thankful for small miracles.)

So off I went, in the front seat (thankfully), of the police cruiser.

The first thing I noted was that it is an incredibly tight space, made for in shape folks and not round shaped folks (like me).

Trooper Cummings asked about my interest in the program and after stuttering for what seemed like 10 minutes, I finally spit out “I just want to see what the other side of law enforcement is” – cheesy I know, but at that moment I couldn’t think of anything better to say. After thinking about it, my real interest in the program stems from my deep sense of curiosity. Or others may say my deep sense of nosiness – whatever.

The night started, as Trooper Cummings would say, “routine.” So I relaxed a little – until I found out that routine included speeding to incredible speeds, hitting a median and doing a U-turn faster than you can say U. This is routine? No, this is plumb crazy. Anyone that knows me knows I do not speed – under any circumstances – and that if I am caught speeding it most certainly has to be the fact that my speedometer is not calibrated.

As the number of speeders increased so did my blood pressure, but the speeding part wasn’t the only thing that made my heart jump.

Sitting on the side of the WK parkway with cars flying by is most certainly intimidating. I was glad that part of the ride-a-long stipulations was to stay in the car. I couldn’t imagine actually getting out and standingon the side of the road – talking with complete strangers who are mad they’ve been stopped, and most likely will be even angrier when they get their ticket. Intimidating.

After almost having a heart attack I was relieved to know that it was time to relax a little and eat dinner.

In we pulled to Mr. Gatti’s and as I unbuckled the seatbelt I heard “both units need to be in route.” Off we went – with no food – to an urgent call several miles away.

After that call, a quick bite, two speeders and a motorist assist later we were back at the station.

The shift had ended but the work wasn’t done. Trooper Cummings wished me well as I drove home and in he went, to finish his nightly duties.

I have to say; as odd as it may sound, I would take a ticket any day over having to give the ticket.

High speeds, argumentative people and the unknown of approaching a strange car are too much for me to handle.

 Being a state trooper is not for the faint of heart and for the first time my curiosity got the best of me.