News From The Woods - March 31, 2012

NEWS FROM THE WOODS

By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published March 31, 2012


"A Rude Awakening"

Ever since I "moved back home" to Mountain Home in the late 70's I have maintained a healthy respect towards the Arkansas State Police. I have always supported their efforts and applauded their courage and commitments.

In 1987 I began producing all of the Arkansas State Police television public service announcements. The man responsible for getting me the gig was (then) Corporal Bob Roten. Bob and I were childhood friends growing up together here on Lake Norfork. When he came to me with an idea to produce a series of humorous (and some NOT so humorous) PSA's for the organization I jumped at the opportunity. Our announcements played on every major television broadcasting station in the state of Arkansas for three years. Some of our PSA's were so successful that for years after that many of our "actors" were easily identified on the street. I cannot tell you how many times people would take a second glance at me in Wal Mart, study me for a moment, and then say something like "You're the guy with the bee in his car, right?" (it was in one of our "speeding excuses" commercials). It made me feel proud that my commercials had a lasting effect like that.

In 1994 I was asked to produce a full length video on behalf of the Arkansas Special Olympics, of which the Arkansas State Police are a major contributor. I went to Conway and documented the entire day of activities and events. After three days of post production I gave the Arkansas Board of Realtors (another major sponsor) the final edited master. It was a proud moment for me.

For years I donated my services to the Arkansas State Police and produced television commercials announcing the annual ASP Torch Run. All I got out of the effort was the inclusion of my Cedar Crest Studio logo on their t-shirts and the satisfaction of knowing I was contributing to a great cause, in addition to support my friends at the Arkansas State Police.

Since 2002 I have been producing the "Last Dance" video alongside a Drug and Alcohol Safety Education Officer Judy Fagan. Judy came to me in the very beginning and told me of her plan to "do something special" which might save the lives of high school students engaging in drinking on prom night. I thought her "shock drama" concept was original and awesome, if somewhat controversial. But I thought the potential good far outweighed the negative responses we might get from those people who might consider our efforts "over the top" and signed on for the first production, held at Cotter High School that year. The response was so positive that the next year Mountain Home High School asked that we produce a similar event on their campus. Norfork High School followed up in 2004, and in 2005 Mountain Home asked us to return. By this time the local law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and other emergency services recognized this event as a fantastic opportunity as a training exercise, and encouraged Judy to continue her program. We went to Yellville High School in 2006. We always held these events the week before prom to maximize our influence on the kids. In 2007 the program caught fire and we did two events a month apart in Flippin and Calico Rock. Also, in 2009 we did two more programs in Harrison and a return program in Flippin. By this time Judy had really over extended herself (in addition to her "real job") and simply had to take a break in 2010. These programs are a tremendous amount of work for everyone involved. The coordination of agencies, schools and sponsors is truly amazing. I shoot each event with multiple cameras and post production takes almost a week of video editing.

In addition, whenever any law enforcement agency contacts me for assistance I am always at their disposal. I've done many surveillance video "clean ups" and upon occasion I take inaudible audio files and make them easier to understand.

I do not print all this for a pat on the back or for the recognition. I am merely pointing out that I am no stranger to the Arkansas State Police and have always supported them personally and professionally. I am proud of my affiliation with ALL law enforcement agencies. I often shoot deposition video as an officer of the court and therefore as a professional I must conduct myself accordingly. I am truly embarrassed in the rare instance when I am pulled over and I look up to see a friend scowling down at me. It is not a good feeling. I feel like I have let them down. I get the "You know better" look.

I have always held the Arkansas State Police in the highest regard. Even with the pony tail (an occupational component of being in the music business) I have always been treated with respect. I have NEVER once, in all my years been treated less than fairly under any circumstances.

Until now.

Yesterday was Judy Fagan's "Swan Song". It was her last "Last Dance" project. She has handed the reigns of the project to Baxter Regional Medical Center, and next year they will have some big shoes to fill. In her honor I decided to go all out and make this the best video I have ever produced. We shot it with 11 cameras. I had three pro shooters on the main cams surrounding the cars. We had additional cameras INSIDE the cars, on fire trucks, and even a camcorder in the AirEvac chopper. The amount of footage this year is astounding. There is over 10 hours of footage to sift through in preparing for the production of this video. I am about to begin the post production today, but felt that I had to get this off my chest first in order to at least give myself some measure of closure on something that happened at midnight on Thursday.

I did not have an opportunity to get to bed early Thursday night, as I knew I had to get up at 6AM Friday morning and drive to Cotter for the "Last Dance". I had a LOT of prep work to do before the 9AM program. However, I was out of town all day on Thursday on a video shoot for an attorney, down near Damascus, Arkansas, and did not get to bed until about 10PM, because I had arranged to leave Robert with his grandparents in town, who would buy me some extra time and take him to school. At around 11:30 PM I felt a tap on my arm, and looked up to see my wife Jane standing over me. She said "I really hated to wake you up but I'm having chest pains….." Fighting through the fog of almost-asleep, I recall her saying something about knowing how important sleep was to me tonight, and I jumped up and ran to the bathroom to splash water in my face and wake up. I knew that SHE knew what all this might mean (by waking me up), so I knew this was important. While we dressed she told me she was nauseous with chest palpitations and that her left arm was aching. I sped up my dressing.

We ran out to the car, strapped ourselves in, and headed for town. After I got off the 62/412 bridge I put the pedal to the metal. I will not lie here. I drove 80 MPH to town. In all fairness, it was midnight on a 5-lane road with NO traffic, and besides, as a kid I had often driven this same road when it was just a 2 lane at 100 MPH (no doubt trying to outrun trooper Bill Miles), so my familiarity with this highway is a good as it gets. I slowed down and flashed through Cranfield at about 70 MPH, noticing the State Trooper car sitting there before speeding back up to 80, emergency flashers going on my car. I was half hoping he would pull out and give me an escort but he didn't and I wasn't going to stop or turn around. I'd be at the ER in minutes anyway. Jane, clutching her arm, mentioned something about the PoPo we just whizzed by, but I was concentrating on my driving. I do not take high speed lightly.

As we came over the big hill and passed through a green light at Burger King, I slowed down to 60 MPH. Still no traffic. At all. A trooper who was sitting somewhere took off in pursuit…. Lights and sirens. He caught up with me by Kent Chevrolet. I rolled down my window and was motioning for him to take the lead (flashers still on) but he quickly powered up next to me and I realized he was about to initiate a "crash and pull over" maneuver. Fearing an accident, I immediately stopped right in the road (still no traffic), with the trooper to my immediate left. As he rolled down his passenger window I yelled out "My wife is having chest pains".

The Trooper screamed at me "I DON'T CARE!!! P U L L O V E R !!!!!

I pulled over. He stopped his vehicle right next to me, in effect blocking ALL incoming traffic (although at that moment there was none), and took perhaps fifteen seconds to put on his hat and walk to my car, hand on weapon. I don't blame him for that. As he advanced on my position he yelled "WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING!???"

I replied "My wife is having chest pains and I'm trying to get to the ER"

"DO YOU KNOW HOW FAST YOU WERE GOING!!!?"

"Yessir, I was going about 60……."

"YOU WERE DOING 60 IN A 40!!!!"

I leaned back so he could see Jane clutching her arm. He wasn't interested.

To be honest I hardly recall what he was saying after that. I'm sure he has a recording on his dash cam. All I was thinking to myself was "Would this guy be sitting here yakking to someone if it was HIS wife ?"….. and I was about to say something to that effect but my wife pinched my arm and shook her head. I sat there until his tirade finished and immediately motioned with my hand toward the highway and said something like "Well, can you please lead the way so we….."

He interrupted me with "I WILL NOT ESCORT YOU TO THE HOSPITAL !!! SLOW DOWN!!" and headed back to his car. I did not wait for him to make further response, figuring he would at least follow me to the hospital, making sure I wasn't lying to him, but he didn't. I don't know if he turned around or what but I took off….driving 45 MPH (in a 40) all the way to ER.

Now, as it turns out, her overnight stay and various tests reveal she did NOT have a heart attack. We still do not know the cause. The doctor says more than likely is was from the stress of the past four months of grief surrounding her bout with MRSA, resulting from a December 2011 hernia surgery.

I still wonder why he refused to assist me. He was sure in the Zone! Could it be ASP policy NOT to assist motorists in an emergency ?? I don't think so. What else could he have been doing at midnight? Did he not have the extra 5 minutes?? I was just so shocked by his behavior that I didn't even take notice of his badge number or name. All I wanted was to get my wife to the emergency room. She is not a whiner or hypochondriac. She is a medical professional herself, so she is no stranger to medical conditions and health related issues. It WAS an emergency. His demeanor WAS inappropriate, to say the least.

This Trooper has yet to learn that as an officer of the law he represents not only his organization but ALL law enforcement agencies across the board. His total lack of consideration in this case has left a bad taste in this citizen's mouth.

This incident reminded me of the phrase "One bad apple……." I would like to respectfully suggest that the Arkansas State Police re-evaluate their training program procedures when it comes to the way officers deal with citizens. I would really hate to see the motto change from "To Serve and Protect" to "To Control and Protect".

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