Batiste John R Chief

January 2018

Q&A with the Leader of the Washington State Patrol

Why did you decide to work in law enforcement?

There is a long tradition of working in law enforcement in my family. Growing up, I had two uncles in law enforcement. In addition, my parents and grandparents showed tremendous respect for the profession, particularly for state troopers.

Are you working on any key initiatives in Washington?

Target Zero is a program that grew out of our governor’s Strategic State Highway Safety Plan. The focus of the program came from our belief that deaths from vehicle collisions should not be acceptable. So we have developed goals and a data-driven strategy to move us consistently toward zero fatalities by 2030.

We are taking a hard look at what the leading causes of highway fatalities are, and developing enforcement and education programs to bring those numbers down. The responsibility for accomplishing reduction goals is set for each captain and district commander, and down through the ranks to the troopers.

HOW ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING THE PROGRAM?

We are taking a hard look at what the leading causes of highway fatalities are, and developing enforcement and education programs to bring those numbers down. The responsibility for accomplishing reduction goals is set for each captain and district commander, and down through the ranks to the troopers.

How have troopers and the public been brought on board with the program?

I continually encourage our troopers to share their ideas and to get involved in the decision-making process at their detachment and district levels of the agency. We also have a very robust media outreach program run through the state government’s media office. We use mass media and social media to continually engage our troopers and show them the data that reinforces how we can protect people on roadways.

What are some other challenges you are facing in your jurisdiction?

We are experiencing such rapid growth in the state—the population has more than doubled since I was trooper—which means there is a lot more congestion, more development and more cars on the road. At the same time, our force has seen heavy retirement among troopers. It is difficult to fill that void, and many troopers need a pay raise. Attrition has slowed down thanks to the governor and legislature approving a better budget that gives us the ability to get more boots on the ground.

This population growth contributes to the economy, but it stretches the capabilities of our highway system. There are efforts to improve capacity and find ways to pay for growing demands. As we become greener, there is less gas burned, and revenue from gas taxes has gone down. That’s not just a Washington problem; it’s a national problem.

What do you think about the other trend in vehicles—autonomous operation?

I think autonomous vehicles will be a plus for safety, because you are taking vehicles out of the hands of people who might use them in an unsafe manner.

What’s the best part about being part of the AAMVA community?

I am an active member and member of the International Board. I was invited to join AAMVA by my chief in 1993, and I’ve been actively involved in the association ever since. The greatest benefit of AAMVA is networking and sharing information. Sometimes we can feel isolated [dealing with problems] until we engage others. Then we see that other people have the same problems, just with differences in scale.

How did you feel about winning the Martha Irwin Lifetime Achievement Award?

I was very humbled and appreciative that someone had recognized years of hard work and dedication. Not that I was looking for it, mind you—it’s my calling. I’ve done this for four decades.

What transportation issue are you most passionate about?

I feel strongly about trying to do everything we can about people who behave in a reckless fashion and cause injury or death to others.

What do you do in your free time?

Now that I’m a grandfather, I love to spend time with my grandkids. Otherwise, I’m golfing. My goal is to teach my granddaughter to play just the way I taught her mother.

ChiefBatiste
Chief John R. Batiste poses with little chief Carlos Callejas, with Captain Ron Mead in the background. Carlos and his brother, Angel, had just arrived at the ceremony in a motorcade.