Herald JournalHerald Journal, Oct. 20, 2003

State Trooper Alan Thompson does his job

By Ryan Gueningsman

Minnesota State Trooper Alan Thompson of Winsted handed out about 3,200 tickets in 2001 ­ the most citations of all Minnesota State Troopers. That does not mean that he doesn't give out warnings as well.

"They say they want us to go out there and do our job, and that's what I do," Thompson said.

Thompson has been a Minnesota State Trooper since 1999. He works Carver and Scott counties, and his primary role is traffic enforcement and taking accident reports.

Before becoming a trooper, Thompson worked as a Renville County Sheriff's deputy for eight years.

Not sure what he wanted to do

Thompson graduated from Holy Trinity High School in 1978, and following graduation, he said he still wasn't sure what he wanted to do.

He worked at Lester Building Systems and Jerry's Transmission in Lester Prairie.

"I joined the fire department while working at Jerry's," Thompson said. "I realized that work interested me."

He began taking classes at Normandale, took his skills training at Alexandria Technical College, and became a licensed peace officer in Minnesota.

While still in college, Thompson knew the officers who worked in Winsted and Lester Prairie, and joined both of those departments part time.

Upon his graduation, he took a job in Renville County ­ where he went on to work for eight years as a sheriff's deputy. While there, he handled calls that are common to police departments here ­ domestics, driving complaints, etc. Traffic enforcement took second string.

"Renville County was 10th in the nation for miles traveled/population and fatalities," Thompson said. "By the time I left, we were off of the top 100. That shows you that working traffic does affect that fatality rate."

Realizing that he liked dealing with the traffic enforcement aspect of the job rather than handling other calls, Thompson tested for the Minnesota State Patrol in 1999.

After enduring 16 weeks of military boot camp style training, learning Minnesota state statutes, defense techniques, and squad car driving, Thompson made the cut.

He was assigned to patrol Carver and Scott counties. At that time, Thompson and his family moved back to their hometown of Winsted.

His wife Debra is an emergency medical technician for Ridgeview, his son Scott works for the FBI in Chicago, and his daughter Katie is in college. His parents are Roger and Diana Thompson, who both work in Winsted.

Since going on duty with the state patrol, a majority of the tickets Thompson hands out are for speeding, as well as seat belt violations. A big pet peeve of his is people not wearing seat belts.

"It was early spring on Highway 169, and there was a F-350 thinking it was invincible," Thompson said. "It got loose, rolled over, and the people that were in it were laying on 169. The passenger compartment was intact. They would have survived that crash if they had seat belts on.

"I've seen a lot of crashes where if people would have had their seat belts on, they would have survived."

A low percentage of rollover crashes involve a high percentage of fatalities, Thompson said.

Excuses, excuses

In his years of being an officer, Thompson figures that he has heard about every excuse in the book for speeding and not wearing seat belts.

During the day that the Herald Journal rode with him, several notable ones were heard, including;

· This was heard in a 55 miles per hour zone: "I always set my cruise at 65."

· This was heard after a woman dropped a cigarette out of her window upon being pulled over. She was issued a citation for littering. "That cigarette is biodegradable."

"Now, most of the excuses go in one ear and one the other," Thompson said.

Within the patrol

In the Minnesota State Patrol, there are various special assignments or trainings that one can receive.

The unit has drug recognition experts (DRE), accident reconstructionists, safety education officers who go to schools and teach in classrooms, an investigative unit, and auto theft unit.

"There are really so many different fields within the state patrol," Thompson said. "There's a lot of different branches and a lot of things you can get into."

In the trooper's squad car is a high tech I-mobil program that is used to run license plates, all traffic stops, as well as uses a global positioning system to give dispatch in Roseville an exact location of the car, Thompson said.

A laptop computer is mounted in the car. Also in the squad car is a video/audio camera which records every traffic stop that is made.

"That helps keep us on the straight and level," he said with a smile.

There are three different types of police vehicles that departments across the state use, Thompson said.

He drives a class C, or unmarked vehicle. There is also class B cars which are fully marked, but do not have the light bar on top of the roof, and there are class A cars, which have the light bars.

There are also specialist vehicles such as sport utility vehicles that accident reconstructionists drive.

Thompson feels that the state patrol is lacking in numbers when it comes to the number of troopers on the roads.

"There was a trooper who just retired," Thompson said. "He started in 1974, and from then until now, there have been just 17 troopers added in those years."

Minnesota currently is 47th out of the 49 states that have state patrols as far as the trooper/population ratio. Hawaii is the one state that does not have a state patrol.

"If the state patrol was to add another 200 members, that would bring us up to 42nd," he said. "We definitely need more numbers."


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