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To: Commanding Officer, Orlando District, Troop K

On 17 December 2004, I woke up at 4 AM, showered and dressed. At 5 AM, I left my house in Ocala with intent to arrive at an Orlando airport parking lot at 7 AM and ultimately catch a 9:30 flight to an afternoon job interview. I stopped at a gas station for a pastry and coffee. Sometime shortly after 6 AM, I paid a toll at the southbound toll facility near Leesburg.

About a mile or so down the road, my car caught fire.

I effected a controlled stop by the side of the highway. Grabbing only my carry-on bag from the passenger seat beside me, I jumped out of the car. What to do? My cell phone was not working. There was little traffic. I decided to run back to the tollbooth for help.

After some period of time waiting at the tollbooth, Trooper M. Idziorek met with me. He had apparently already seen my vehicle, which by then was for all intents and purposes destroyed and already removed from the highway. I explained what happened, and he told me where the remains of the vehicle were taken. What makes this episode exemplary -- aside from the fact that I had never known anyone whose car caught fire -- was the professional manner in which Trooper Idziorek conducted himself.

As a former Marine Corps Sergeant, I understand firsthand the burden of maintaining control of a situation through self assertion, but it has been my perception that many civilian law enforcement officers with whom I have interacted in the past have used their authority to excess, far beyond the necessity of the situation. As a consequence, this has left me with a perhaps less-than-favorable overall feeling for *all* law enforcement personnel.

Trooper M. Idziorek changed all that.

In the field of psychology, BF Skinner demonstrated that negative reinforcement (such as the implied threat of action by authority figures if appropriate behavior is not maintained) is flawed. It is flawed because it requires no less than one hundred percent of the controller's attention, and could yield less than desired results. Slip up for one instant, let down your guard, and the person controlled could take advantage. Skinner demonstrated that it is far more effective to use positive reinforcement to elicit a desired behavior. Why make someone your opponent, when it would be far more effective to be on the same side?

So it was with my interaction with Trooper Idziorek. I do not know how he perceived me, but I do know it was very early in the morning for me, I was hungry, my car had just burned up, I had just run over a mile with a packed carry-on bag over my shoulder, and was perhaps a little frantic trying to assemble my wits and figure out what to do next. Idziorek could have "taken control" of the situation, told me what "I" had to do: instead, he spoke to me. He explained to me that yes, this kind of thing does happen. Instead of telling me where to write for a copy of incident report, he handed me a copy of the FHP Inventory and Vehicle Storage Receipt ... already completed (apparently from the computer in his car). He helped me look in the phone book for a taxi and I think he may have even called for me. I actually did get to the airport and did catch my flight.

Trooper Idziorek did not merely do what he HAD to, but instead he did what he COULD do. He assisted me, probably calmed me down, and ultimately left me with a very changed impression of a professional law enforcement officer.

I recall using the words "...demonstrates the highest standards and level of professional bearing..." in composing a letter of commendation for a Marine in my platoon many years ago. However, since I have no authority to determine what does or does not constitute "highest" with regard to the official standards of the Florida Highway Patrol, I can only relate to you my perception of the incident, and that I feel grateful to Trooper Idziorek for his assistance.

Sincerely,

Arthur M. Grant

 


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