Last week offered an eye-opener as I rode along with Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Steve Spurr. What began as a brisk day turned into a wider look into what troopers do on a long shift around Sanders County.
We see troopers parked along the highway or at an accident; but I was given was the opportunity to peek behind the curtain of a trooper’s daily life. Community-minded is the best way to sum up their service.
Troopers get their day started early for a regular 10-hour patrol.
Due to winter break for schools, the morning routine of working as a crossing guard was not on the agenda. Rather a quick chat with a member of the public about what was happening and answering questions of concern started the day.
The knowledge of what is happening in the community is that secondary “sixth sense” that you see with most law enforcement officers.
Cruising across the black top in the patrol car, a quick look to see how citizens where traveling on their morning commute was steady and not that nail-biting experience you would think. Though it was also an opportunity to chat with Spurr about how his day-to-day duties can vary as we drove up to the county line and back.
Just like any other profession, you clock in and check out your work station to ensure you are aware of what’s happening.
As the morning progressed, we stopped along the road checking vehicle speeds as travelers drove past.
It would be around 9:30 a.m. when the speed camera picked up the first speeder for the day.
Spurr hit the recorder that sat above the dash before he existed the vehicle to visit with the driver.
Calmly walking up to the vehicle, checking the license plate on the back and greeting the morning driver with a smile, he was cool, calm and vibrant.
The driver handed over their license and proof of insurance before Spurr walked back to the patrol car. Once in the car, he then scanned the license into his in-house computer.
Unfortunately for the driver, they ended up with a speeding ticket. The ticket then printed from under the computer, a stark contrast to those yesteryears of law enforcement writing on a pad.
Just like every other pull-over that day, Spurr walked back to the vehicle, paperwork in hand and with a comforting smile, handed over the papers back to a driver who would not be as happy to receive a fine on Friday morning.
All in all, there were close to a dozen warnings and around a dozen tickets given throughout the day.
Making the day more enjoyable was the time to get to know Spurr both in and out of uniform.
Married to his wife, Whitney, with two young girls, the Spurr family lives just outside of Plains on a small hobby ranch with more than just a few animals.
“We [Whitney] both grew up in small towns, and we like the small town feel to raise our family,” said Spurr.
He continued to say that the family enjoys going along to local sporting events supporting those athletes from tournaments to season games both in and out of the local high school. Both Spurr and Whitney are both community-minded and are always looking to lend a hand where they can.
It was clear to see that the uniform didn’t define the local trooper, rather the trooper defined the uniform.