ROCK SPRINGS – When most of us think of the Wyoming Highway Patrol it is usually “Why are you pulling me over now?” Little do most of us know, there is much more to the WHP than that. Recently at Overland Elementary, students of Kelli King’s fourth-grade class had the opportunity to get to see another side of the WHP.
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While going to local classrooms is a very new thing for the Wyoming Highway Patrol, Trooper Mitch Kannier has been teaching the Alive at 25 class, which works with young people who have run into issues with substances. Alive at 25 works to change perspectives on the dangers of driving under the influence.
With a strong belief in the positive impact the program brings to the community, local Wyo Radio personality Johnny K invites Kannier a couple times a month to sit and talk about the program on the radio.
As it turned out, Johnny K’s wife, Mrs. King, invited Kannier to talk to her class about the department and what they do.
Yes, it does give Kannier a break from his patrol duties, but its much more than that to him. He explained that anytime he gets to work closely to educate the community it makes his job much more fulfilling.
“It is the best thing I get to do,” he explained. “It brings me happiness like when you go to an accident scene and everyone is fine and in good shape.”
Trooper Kannier visited the class, not only giving the students a chance to meet a trooper and ask him questions about every aspect of his job but also take a closer look at the equipment troopers use on a daily basis.
“We want the kids to become familiar with us,” Kannier said about the visit. “A lot of times we hear ‘You pulled us over’ or ‘You arrested my dad.’ We want to show them that we really aren’t bad people.”
While some students related to the traffic stops and arrests, he explained they also respond to hundreds of accidents a year. He said by building this trust, if they happen to be involved in an accident, they will not look at the troopers as bad but rather a person who they can trust in the midst of all the confusion.
Kannier also added that by meeting with the students in this type of early setting, the Troopers can build that trust which helps stop the bad reputation they get which seems to come along with the job.
No matter what profession, its often said you can learn a lot from watching and listening to the younger generation. Kannier said he can really get a feel for public feelings by the questions he gets from the younger generation. Not only that, but he gets a chance to change the perception.
“You can get 100 questions about anything and everything. A lot of times they ask about shooting people, or why did you tazer my brother or you arrested my dad,” he said. “By meeting with them like this hopefully we can put more of a positive spin on what we do and take the focus off the bad aspects or the bad situations they remember.”
The K-9 unit joined him in the visit to Overland. The students enjoyed learning about the K-9 and what he can do for troopers in the field. Students also got an up close look at the cars. Kannier’s voice smiled as he explained how the students loved to turn on the lights and look at how the cameras in the car work.
At the end of the visit, each student was presented with their trooper badges. Again, Kannier went right to the learning aspect and teaching at a young age, working to instill the importance of seat belts and the dangers of drugs into the young minds.
While the visit to King’s room was a glowing success to those involved, Kannier is hoping it is not the last visit they do this year. He explained they do work with the high schools, but also want to reach out to the younger members of the community. He said he hopes other teachers and youth groups will hear and read about the visit and want to invite the department their way.
The entire department from the top to the bottom are all in support and ready to reach out to the young people of the community. Kannier said all teachers or leaders have to do is call the local office and set up a time they can bring education and the safety message to the respective school, classroom or group.