California Highway Patrol Commissioner Dwight "Spike" Helmick and New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council Director Earl Sweeney were recently honored as winners of the 2001 J. Stannard Baker Award. The Baker award, sponsored by the IACP, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety, recognizes individual outstanding lifetime achievement in the field of highway safety and is usually presented at the IACP’s Annual Conference; however, Helmick and Sweeney were unable to attend.
Commissioner Helmick and Director Sweeney join Chief Philip Keith of the Knoxville, TN, Police department as the 2001 winners of the J. Stannard Baker Award. Chief Keith received his plaque at the IACP’s conference in Toronto and was recognized in the January 2002 issue of Police Chief (p.45).
"Spike" Helmick was appointed commissioner of the CHP in 1995 and commands one of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies with more than 6,800 uniformed and 3,300 non-uniformed personnel. Helmick is recognized as an outstanding initiator and leader in various highway safety programs. His efforts include such success stories as a 90% seat belt compliance rate statewide; an 80% decrease in motorcycle deaths and injuries; reduction of deaths and injuries along highway corridors; expanded grant funding for the agency; and exceptional outreach to the Hispanic community.
Earl Sweeney’s law enforcement career began in 1957 as a patrolman with the Belmont, NH, Police Department where he quickly became the state’s youngest chief at the age of 23. Sweeney also served as Deputy Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Safety for 10 years and was appointed to his current position as Director of the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council in 1985. Sweeney teaches at every session of the NH Police Academy, collaborates with national highway safety agencies and has served as Chairman of the IACP’s Highway Safety Committee since 1991.
Local Category—Chief Philip Keith, Knoxville, TN Police Department
In early 1994, the Knoxville Police Department contracted for a study of the Safety City concept and its feasibility for the City of Knoxville. The concept of a Safety City is one of providing hands-on safety education within a child-size setting, complete with buildings, paved streets, sidewalks, working traffic signals, and traffic signs. Students receive classroom instruction and then are able to practice and demonstrate their safety skills in participatory activities. The objective of Safety City is to provide an early, prevention oriented, educational program for elementary school children to learn about vehicular, pedestrian, bicycle, and also fire safety.
There are four existing Safety Cities, one each in Maryland, Alabama, Indiana, and Kentucky. In the contracted study, each of these sites was visited and evaluated, and then the program preparation was tailored to fit the needs of the Knoxville community. Planners estimate that the Safety City program could impact more than 25,000 students per year. They are targeting public, private and home school students as well as students in the eight surrounding counties.
Realizing that taxpayers cannot provide the funding for such a program, Chief Keith made over 100 presentations and raised 3.2 million dollars in pledges and contributions from over 150 sponsors to build the center. This project has required long hours of commitment; gaining acceptance by the business and residential communities; and the accumulation of vast resources for a successful outcome.
Motor vehicle crashes cause about one-third of all child injury deaths per year. Chief Keith was convinced that utilizing an interactive, child-size, structured learning environment that allows reinforcement through participation could really make a difference. His personal and professional dedication to reducing the number of deaths and injuries suffered by Knoxville residents, especially their smallest ones, has manifested itself in the creation of Safety City Knoxville. The skills taught at Safety City will empower youngsters with the ability to avoid needless tragedy and instill safety habits at an early age—likely saving lives and preventing serious injury.