Highway Patrol professionalism…

Written by: Marvin Baker

Have you ever been stopped, ticketed or even arrested by the North Dakota Highway Patrol? If so, did you notice there is something different about this law enforcement agency compared to others?

It’s simply professionalism. I’m not trying to ding other law enforcement. I have friends in law enforcement, including the Nelson County sheriff, a former Ward County sheriff and a couple of local police officers. They’re good people and they do their jobs well.

But North Dakota Highway Patrol officers are a cut above. And, although I don’t know this for fact, my assumption is this has to do with their training. To become a Highway Patrol officer, you have to go through a difficult training process, kind of like Army basic training. It takes months to make the grade.
And that shows out on the open road.

Several years ago while I was in the National Guard, I had borrowed my wife’s car to go to Guard drill in Devils Lake. I was on my way home on a Sunday afternoon and somewhere between Devils Lake and Rugby I was pulled over by the Highway Patrol.

I wasn’t speeding, the tail lights were operational, I didn’t have an open container. I couldn’t think of why I would get pulled over for no apparent reason.

As it turned out, a couple of days prior, I put new license tabs on my Ford F-150 and her PT Cruiser at the same time and I somehow got them mixed up and put the Ford tabs on the Cruiser and that’s why I was pulled over.
I’m sure these guys have heard it all; weird explanations, excuses, I didn’t mean to put false plates on the car. His initial reaction was that it was a stolen car, so he pulled it over. But then he saw that I was wearing a military uniform and almost immediately ruled out that possibility.

Regardless, something wasn’t right. But through the entire course of our exchange that day, this Highway Patrol officer was professional, he was transparent, he treated me with dignity, even though I did something that technically wasn’t legal.
And oddly enough, I felt comfortable in that surrounding because of how that officer handled the situation. To me it was an event in which I realized immediately that he was doing his job and doing it to the best of his ability.

After calling back to his headquarters and getting my story, he realized I was genuine and that it was an honest mistake. At the end of the conversation, I was given a warning and he told me that I shouldn’t place tabs on two separate vehicles at the same time in the future.

Several years ago I was on the road from Jamestown to Edgeley on U.S. Highway 281 and I was speeding as I was in a hurry to get to Edgeley. There was no doubt I was speeding, doing close to 80 mph in a 65 mph zone.
That time it was an elderly Highway Patrol officer, most likely getting ready for retirement. Totally different scenario, totally different age of the officer and myself and years earlier, but the result was the same.

Of course I got a ticket, but this officer handled the situation with total professionalism.
Highway Patrol officers are obviously trained for just about anything. And, if you look back into recent North Dakota history, they have indeed encountered just about any scenario you can imagine, including busting some drug cartel members outside of Bismarck who were running drugs from Detroit into North Dakota.

My guess is that they handle those situations with a much greater degree of risk assessment, but I would assume they are trained, even in a situation like that, to handle those arrested with some kind of professionalism.

Because of the two personal experiences I’ve had with the Highway Patrol in my adult life, I have the utmost respect for the North Dakota Highway Patrol. We all should. They have a difficult job. It may not seem like it when we see them pulling over speeders, but part of their job can get quite stressful.

There is no doubt they’re keeping our highways safe and we should all thank them for the job they do every day across North Dakota.

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