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Meet the Commish


September 03, 2000
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Meet the Commish

About Buckling Up
Maury Hannigan, former commissioner of the California Highway Patrol and host of Real Stories of the Highway Patrol recently sat down with The Backup to tell us about his involvement with the ABC Mobilization campaign a program of the National Safety Council. “I’m working with the National Safety Council on getting America buckled up,” said the former commissioner.

The ABC Mobilization Campaign (America Buckles Its Children) has an intensive education and action campaign aimed at increasing the proper use of safety belts and child safety seats. “Most of the officers in law enforcement are familiar with it. Basically it’s no tolerance for allowing children to drive around in vehicles when they’re not buckled in the child safety seats or properly buckled in the back of the vehicles. It’s an educational and strong enforcement program,” said the former commissioner. Mr. Hannigan explained that through the efforts of ABC Mobilization 19 million more people buckled up in their vehicles. “We hope to basically reduce senseless deaths. We’ve got to thank law enforcement for this because they are the key in this.” Starting with the involvement of 1,000 law enforcement agencies in 1998, the campaign has now increased to include 7,000 law enforcement agencies. (Click here to view participating agencies http://www.nsc.org/partners/partagen.htm)

Mr. Hannigan attributes the increased seat belt use to stronger laws, public information campaigns coupled with strong enforcement. “Every state has a child restraint law. Now 17 states have primary laws,” he explained. Primary laws allow police to stop and ticket a driver solely for failing to use seat belts. “Education and enforcement always go hand in hand and will bring about results and it will save a lot of lives.”


About Law Enforcement
Shifting gears a bit, we wanted to know more about the man who has been involved in law enforcement for over 34 years. We asked him what he considered to be the greatest changes in law enforcement over the years. “Technology, I think.-- Information access, the speed in obtaining that information and …..equipment.” Mr. Hannigan replied. “When I entered law enforcement, officers never wore bullet-proof vests. It was just unheard of.

Weaponry certainly has changed. There are weapons out there that give the officer the advantage. Frequently you find the criminal has better weaponry than the officer. But I think you are seeing that change.”

Mr. Hannigan also commented on the change in society that is very bothersome. “The willingness of people to use weapons, not only against law enforcement officers, but now children using weapons against children, that’s very disturbing. I think those are the type of things that make law enforcement a very challenging career today, very challenging.”

When asked about his proudest moment or achievement, Mr. Hannigan quickly smiled and replied, “That certainly would be when I married my wife and we had our four children, but on a professional standpoint, I would say my reaching the objectives I had set for the California Highway Patrol when I became commissioner, and that was to actually reduce the number of deaths on California’s highways, and to use the agency to provide assistance to local law enforcement and build a very positive relationship Those things occurred and I’m very proud of that. The sitting commissioner Spike Helmick is doing the same and building upon that success, so I’m very pleased.”

We wondered if the former commissioner missed his patrol car as he moved up through the ranks. “The patrol car when I first came into law enforcement had a spotlight and a switch for the siren. That was it. Today’s technology in the patrol vehicles is just amazing. But certainly you miss the patrol, working on the patrol and so forth. Yes, I miss the patrol, the one on one contact with the citizenry and the other officers, but at the same time you take the information you’ve learned in the field and build upon it and hopefully you make a better organization.”

About The Celebrity
While still commissioner, in 1992, Mr. Hannigan agreed to host the television series Real Stories of the Highway Patrol. Though he was not paid for his appearances while he was commissioner, “The producers were gracious enough to include a public service announcement in every single show we did, which were written by the law enforcement community.” And that’s a lot of shows, approximately 600 in all.
We were curious, though, if making a series is as tough as Hollywood celebrities make it out to be? “Well, I don’t know if I’m a Hollywood celebrity. I certainly don’t think so. That was a relatively easy show to make because primarily what it involved was real law enforcement officers doing their jobs on the street. To me it was a very positive experience and wasn’t difficult at all.”

In 1998, Maury Hannigan extended his on-camera presence with a supporting role in the motion picture Wrongfully Accused starring Leslie Neilson. The movie is a spoof on The Fugitive in which Leslie Nielson aka Ryan Harrison, tries to elude the police. Mr. Hannigan plays a law enforcement officer that is outsmarted by quick thinking Ryan Harrison.
So, we wanted to know about Mr. Hannigan’s experience on the set with Leslie Nielson. Is he as crazy on the set as he appears on screen? “Leslie Nielson is a remarkable man. Yes, he is very, very funny. But he is academic too, a very, very intelligent man, very pleasant to work with. His dad was a Royal Canadian Mounted Poiceman. He has a lot of background in law enforcement… a fascinating individual.”

Though Mr. Hannigan says he has no immediate plans for more movie roles at this time, he did just complete the Trooper of the Year award program in Washington, DC. This one-hour special is now being broadcast across the United States.

There was one more role Mr. Hannigan completed, though and that was one of support, support for The Backup and most importantly, support for law enforcement officers. After freely making time in his busy schedule to grant The Backup this interview, Mr. Hannigan took a moment to thank officers in the field. “I congratulate The Backup for the work you’ve done relative to training in the law enforcement field and wish you success with that and with PoliceOne.com. To all the officers in the field, thank you for all you do and be safe out there….please.”






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