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Day in the life of a Washington State Patrol trooper

Washington State Patrol Trooper Krista Hedstrom talks to a teen driver. The last week of August was teen driving week and troopers focused on educating young drivers. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Washington State Patrol Trooper Krista Hedstrom talks to a teen driver. The last week of August was teen driving week and troopers focused on educating young drivers.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

Many people have seen Washington State Patrol vehicles patrolling roadways, but few know what really goes on during an average day.

A typical day

Trooper Krista Hedstrom has been a WSP trooper for five years. She is assigned to District 8, Kitsap County. When she’s not in State Patrol’s Bremerton office, she’s patrolling the roadways.

“I spend about an hour in the office trying to get paperwork tied up, then I’m out on the road,” Hedstrom said.

WSP troopers work various 10-hour shifts. Hedstrom currently works day shifts, but schedules are rotated every eight weeks.

“Your body gets used to one schedule and then it changes,” Hedstrom said with a smile.

WSP District 8 troopers mainly work in Kitsap County, but if other counties need assistance, Hedstrom said they will lend a hand.

“There’s times when other counties are short staffed and we assist them,” she said.

Why she became a trooper

Hedstrom always wanted to be a police officer. When she was 8 years old, she and her sister were picking flowers on the side of a road in Spanaway. With Mother’s Day rapidly approaching, the flowers were going to be a gift for their mother. A WSP trooper stopped and told the girls they were too young to be on the side of the road. He gave Hedstrom and her sister a ride home.

“Ever since then I just thought it was the coolest thing,” Hedstrom said.

The trooper also gave Hedstrom a WSP teddy bear. Now, as a WSP trooper, Hedstrom gives out those same teddy bears to children and is constantly reminded of her experience as a little girl.

“He gave me a teddy bear with a trooper badge on it and I still have it,” she said with a smile.

All in a

day’s patrol

While patrolling Kitsap County Aug. 31, Hedstrom listened to the dispatchers. Less than an hour into her patrol, she responded to a call regarding a suspicious person on a ferry bound for Bremerton. Hedstrom, along with her captain, went to the ferry terminal and asked the man why he was taking photographs and videotaping the ferry. The man said he had not been on a ferry in a long time and decided to take photographs. State Patrol checked the man’s information and determined he was not a threat.

“We get a lot of calls like that, but we have to check them out,” Hedstrom said.

Hedstrom returned to her car and recorded the stop on her log sheet. Troopers keep records of all their stops for statistical purposes.

After checking on the status of wood debris in a roadway, Hedstrom stopped a white van along Austin Drive in Bremerton. The van’s windshield was cracked and a brake light was broken. She told the driver to fix the windshield and brake light, but didn’t give him a citation.

“A lot of times it’s just easier to educate someone rather than give them a ticket,” Hedstrom said. “Now if I see him in a month (with a cracked windshield), it’s a different story.”

Hedstrom then ticketed a couple of speeding motorists using both radar and laser devices.

After stopping a minivan with a broken taillight lens, Hedstrom received the strangest call of the morning. Three dead raccoons were lying on State Highway 303 near Brownsville Highway and needed to be moved. She donned gloves and dragged the deceased animals to the side of the roadway.

“This is the part of the job description I didn’t know I signed up for,” Hedstrom laughed.

Dispatchers later blared across the radio, saying there was a vehicle collision with unknown injuries on northbound SR 3 near Pioneer Way in North Kitsap. She turned the car around, turned on the overhead lights and sirens, and raced up SR 3 at speeds up to 110 mph.

“When you get one like this we always just assume someone is injured and try to get there as fast as we can,” Hedstrom said. “You never know what you’re going to get.”

Hedstrom and another WSP trooper took statements from the involved parties and prepared to file a collision report. The 17-year-old boy was traveling up SR 3 and hit a vehicle stopped at an intersection.

“It sounds like the guy just kind of stuck his nose out there a little too far,” Hedstrom said.

Last week was teen driving week for WSP. Troopers were instructed to keep an eye out for teenage drivers. Hedstrom said the most common teen driving offense she sees is speeding.

Hedstrom talked to both drivers and passengers to learn what happened. As she was leaving the scene, the driver of the victim car told Hedstrom, “Thanks for being so nice.”

Although Hedstrom didn’t receive a lot of calls for assistance Friday, she said it was a good thing.

“I guess it’s good if we’re not getting a lot of calls,” she said. “It means nothing bad is happening.”

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