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May 27, 2017

"Getting There" Ride Along with a State Trooper - Part 1

Shawn Mansfield drives I-95 for a living, occasionally at 120 miles an hour.  Five days a week you’ll find him in his super-charged muscle car, sipping a coffee and listening to his FM radio, driving up and down the highway starting at 5:30 am.  You see, Shawn is a Connecticut State Trooper.

“I love my job,” he tells me during a recent ride-along in his unmarked car as I was squeezed next to his on-board computer and wearing an under-sized bullet-proof vest.

Shawn’s been a Trooper for almost three years following a stint as a corrections officer and six years in the US Navy, including a deployment to Afghanistan.  “Six years in the Navy and I was never on a ship,” he says as we race down the interstate enroute to an accident.

It’s 8:30 am and the southbound highway is bumper-to-bumper, yet he weaves his way through the cars, choosing not to drive on the breakdown lane.  “There’s too much debris there,” he says, adding that he loves to issue tickets to impatient motorists who think the “emergency rescue lane” is their express lane through the delays.

He’s also quick to ticket trucks driving in the left lane.  But his favorite targets are “distracted drivers”, especially people on their cell-phones.  Sure enough, we stealthily pass a Colorado van with the guy oblivious to our unmarked police vehicle.

Shawn pulls him over and the driver immediately ‘fesses up.  “Honesty is always the best policy,” says Shawn, issuing the out-of-stater a $150 ticket for his first offense.  Troopers’ cars even have an on-board printer so they can hand the driver the citation and a pre-addressed envelope.

In the course of four hours we make four stops, most of them accidents… a few rear-enders in congested I-95 traffic, another on Super 7.  In addition to tickets for “following too close”, several stops found unregistered vehicles or unlicensed drivers.  “She won’t be going anywhere today,” he says as we watch a tow-truck remove her from the highway.

Even illegal aliens can get a Connecticut driver’s license, and should.  But illegals have nothing to fear from their interactions with State Troopers… or nothing more than any other motorist.  “We don’t toss anybody to ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement)” he notes.

At every stop Shawn uses his onboard laptop to “run” the license plates of the vehicles involved as well as their drivers’ licenses.  He writes up his accident reports on the scene with his dispatchers at Troop G in Bridgeport able to follow every key-stroke.  They also know his location, minute-by-minute, thanks to the GPS transponder mounted on his roof… the only telltale sign that his super-charged speedster is part of the State Police.

In each case, the motorists involved in the accidents are patient and friendly, some of them even shaking hands after receiving their citations.  “You can be a nice guy and still do your job,” Shawn said with a smile.

But sometimes, he says, he has to break up fights.  Or deal with people who don’t speak English.  “My Spanish isn’t great”, he says, “but one time I used Google Translate to talk with a Korean gentleman.”

Next week, our discussion with Shawn about speeding on our interstates.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media.

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