- Associated Press - Friday, February 12, 2016

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - Krystalyn Davis had plans to become a nurse, but joining the Air National Guard in 2010 changed everything.

“We were in our beast week, which is like a deployed environment, and I had a blast and that kind of triggered it. … and when I got home I looked into it,” Davis told the St. Joseph News-Press (http://bit.ly/1osGvkl ).

What she “looked into” was a career in law enforcement, leading her to become a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper.

The 24-year-old grew up in DeKalb, Missouri - in a place she describes as “country” - and was completing her required general education courses at Missouri Western State University when she had to leave for Air Guard basic training.

After “beast week,” her aunt encouraged her to give nursing another try. Davis attended several more classes, but didn’t feel an interest. Instead, she enrolled in the Missouri Western Law Enforcement Academy.

“At that point, I knew I wanted to be a state trooper if I was going to get into law enforcement,” Davis said.

In 2012, she graduated from the six-month police academy - followed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Academy - before joining Troop H on Jan. 2, 2014.

Troopers are assigned a take-home patrol car and start their shifts at home. Davis checks her car’s tail lights and light bar, in addition to the emergency equipment, radar, computer, camera system and radio to make sure they are properly functioning before making her way to the station.

Davis spent last Wednesday’s shift patrolling Buchanan and Andrew county roadways, responding to stranded motorists, accidents, abandoned vehicles and conducting traffic stops - even assisting other agencies when needed.

“Depending on where you’re located at in the state you, could work one county or up to three,” Davis said. “I know Troop H, we have troopers up north that work three counties.”

Early on in her shift, she spotted a Buchanan County Sheriff’s Department deputy who had a driver pulled over on Interstate 29. Davis stopped to see if he needed assistance, but the situation was under control and she went back to her patrol.

Soon after, she caught a car speeding behind her on I-29 through the radar, which often shocks motorists.

“I have a pretty good visual idea of how fast they are traveling before I check them (with radar) and I just confirm the speed,” Davis said.

After pulling the driver over, she quickly exited her car and planted her hand on the other vehicle’s tail light.

“You need to get out of your car fast,” she said. “That way you’re not giving them a chance to hide things, or time to think about something.”

Making sure she touches the other car? That’s for added safety.

“If something were to happen and that vehicle took off, at least my finger prints are on that tail light for identification purposes.”

Several things cross her mind in the few moments it takes to walk to the stopped vehicle.

“When I approach a vehicle, I’m trying to see how many people I have inside and if they are wearing seat belts,” Davis said. “I’m also checking what they are doing to make sure there’s nothing that will put me in harm’s way.”

She also can radar motorists driving on the opposite direction and attempt to issue a ticket, if she can do so safely.

Davis said she often encounters people at their worst - but sometimes she’s surprised and they are happy to see her. She described a time when she approached a stop sign and a group of kids ran to her patrol car.

“I didn’t know if they needed help or what they were doing. … They started blowing me kisses, so I pulled over and talked to them and gave them stickers and they let me know how they love law enforcement and it was a good feeling to hear that from them,” she said.

She’s just a year into the job, but Davis plans to retire as a trooper.

“I like being a trooper because we are helping people out even though we are stopping cars for violations. … We’re trying to make the roadway safe for people.”

___

Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, http://www.newspressnow.com

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