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Idaho’s finest

carlson CHRIS


“We’ve done so much, with so little, for so long, that now we can do almost anything with next to nothing.” – ISP Colonel Rich Humpherys

If ever a saying captured the essence of an organization the above expression is it. The quote is taken from Kelly Kast’s recently published history of the first 75 years of the Idaho State Police entitled Without Compromise. It is a fascinating read well worth the time and price.

Anyone who travels much along Idaho’s highways and byways sooner or later has a close encounter of a personal kind with an ISP trooper. Idaho is geographically large with vast distances between its cities and towns. When driving on a long journey most have a lead foot which leads to getting personally acquainted with law enforcement.

These encounters can be if not pleasant at least proper, professional and respectful. Some are not (truck haulers in particular complain), but in almost all those cases the erring motorist cops an attitude with the officer and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Over the 14 years Cecil Andrus was governor he developed a unique bond with the ISP. The reasons were many. For example, Andrus has always possessed an uncanny memory, and thus easily mastered the plate numbers of the various troopers.

As we traveled the state we often had the police radio on scan mode. The governor might hear a report from a trooper with plate number 411 reporting in on something. The governor would jump on saying “411 this is Car 1. What the heck are you doing, Jerry, chasing down some poor elderly driver?”

Little things like that make a difference just as the governor ordering future auto purchases include air conditioning in the “black and whites.”

A previous administration, in an absurd penny-pinching mode, had ordered auto purchases exclude air conditioning.

Andrus put it this way: “It is wrong for some bureaucrat sitting in an air conditioned office in Boise to decide a trooper doesn’t need a car with air conditioning. The car is that trooper’s office on wheels and he more than deserves the same comfort the bureaucrat sitting in Boise does.”

Both times Andrus became governor he abolished the personal security detail, saying that the state’s highways needed more troopers chasing tail lights and those on the detail should be reassigned to traffic enforcement.

Over his terms he always took a strong personal interest in selecting the director of law enforcement and in the selection of the Superintendent of the State Police. He knew many of the troopers by name as well as the command structure. Andrus’ support for more troopers, more funding and better training was always applauded.

In particular, Andrus was proud to have elevated people like Dick Cade to the directorship following his public sacking of Cade’s predecessor, Mack Richardson, who the governor felt lied to him about promulgating a policy of special treatment for legislators and a select list of other V.I.P.’s.

Andrus was adamant that no one in his administrations would receive “special treatment” from the ISP. His instructions to staff and cabinet heads were crystal clear: if stopped for any reason we were to take the ticket without comment. If he heard of anyone trying to “big time” an ISP trooper it was a firing offense. He rightly said the public expected all to be treated the same.

When rumors surfaced claiming there was an unwritten special treatment policy, he personally flew to several districts and privately met with troopers without their supervisors to establish the “ground truth.” The subsequent firing of Richardson spoke volumes to the public and to the ISP.

One of Andrus’ favorite stories was the time he ordered the state’s borders closed to the importation of any nuclear waste from Rocky Flats, Colorado. He called Dick Cade personally and requested that one of the ISP’s big, burley troopers take his “black and white” and park it across the train tracks near Blackfoot where the spur line to the Idaho National Lab split off of the main line

The ensuing photograph made the front page of the New York Times and was worth the proverbial thousand words as the Department of Energy quickly recognized they had better negotiate.

Appropriately, Kast devotes several poignant pages describing the circumstances surrounding the deaths of five troopers who over the 75 years gave the last full measure of service. Idahoans everywhere owe a debt of deep gratitude to these five: Linda Huff (6/17/98); Douglas Deen (8/5/79); Walter Cox (3/6/70); Benjamin Newman (3/3/62); and, Fontaine Cooper (11/25/35).

Order a copy from Ridenbaugh Press. You’ll be glad you did. And the next time you encounter an ISP trooper, thank them for their service.

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