(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)—This week, I did something I never thought I would ever do. I shot a gun for the very first time in my life. It was a very good thing thing for myself and many others, as we learned how to do it safely through proper training at the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Community Alliance Program.
But before we get to that, let's first go through the reality of the dangers of being out on the road. We met Sgt. Heath Sears of the Troop H's Major Crash Investigation Unit. He is one of four teams in the state that go through the process of re-configuring major fatality accidents and what caused them. Through the growth of computer technology over the years and the ability to use a drone to go over an accident sight, it has helped Sears put many cases to a close and bring closure to the victim's families.
"Technology is great. The more we get, it really aids us in analyzing these wrecks and determining what happened," Sears said.
According to Sears, the main contributor to rising number of deaths in traffic crashes in the Show-Me-State over the last several years is distracted driving. It's something the patrol wants the public to constantly remember.
"When you're driving highway speeds, you're driving over 100 feet per second," Sears said. "That could be a big problem just to look away from the road for that amount of time. Bad things can happen."
Next we were introduced to the Troop H's Division of Drug and Crime Control. These troopers take on the responsibility of investigating criminal cases such as homicide or child abuse cases. They are also in charge of giving a polygraph exam.
"The technical name is Psycho-physiological Detection of Deception Examination, " said Sgt. Tyson Gardner of MSHP's Division of Drug and Crime Control. "It's basically the mind's affect on the body. We look at physiological responses within your body as we ask questions. Nobody is ever forced to take a polygraph exam. It's totally voluntary."
Sgt. Gardner gave us a mock version of how the exam was administered. The entire group was amazed on the process.
"Everybody has their different opinions. Maybe I changed a few opinions I hope," Gardner said.
Now, let's back into the shooting lesson. The team and I visited the Trooper's shooting range and we got a tour of it. Then we saw the various shotguns and riffles these troopers are trained on and used in every type of scenario. Then came the big moment. We all put on our safety glasses and earmuffs, then we each in pairs stepped right up to give our best shot. I will admit I was a little nervous the first round, but the next three rounds went better and I made the target. All I have to say is what an experience.
Next week in part four of the series, the team and I will have the tables turned and gets to play the part of a state trooper. It's all part of the "Stop and Approach" mock traffic stop. You won't want to miss it.