Guns to Gavels: State Trooper Forced to Change Career

A drunk driver slammed into his cruiser and forced him off the front lines

This Memorial Day weekend, police will be watching for drunk drivers, hoping to stop another tragedy. But this story is about redemption, inspiration, and picking yourself up from devastation.

A young boy with a dream grew up to live it, only to see his career cut short by a drunk driver.

He didn't have much choice, changing to something mental instead of physical, but he did trade in his body and badge for books and a bar exam.

Sam Arp gave it all he had, but there was still some left to give.

He’s a smart guy, and he knows with every action there's an equal and opposite. What he didn't know was one action would change his life.

He was raised in Orleans, Indiana, a small town south of Bloomington. Young Sam only had a dream.

“To be an Indiana State Trooper from the time I was born,” he says with a smile. That dream was realized in 2000 just a year out of college.

On patrol for 6 years with his K-9 Maxwell, his dream came to a crashing halt.

“The accident happened, I believe it was 2005 or 2006,” he says with a pause. “I don't quite remember.”

It was May and he was just finishing up a traffic stop with a semi-truck, when a drunk driver slammed into the back of his parked patrol car at 80 miles per hour. He could walk away but internal injuries in his back quickly caught up. Maxwell was okay.

One surgery in Sam’s back didn’t take, and pain medications didn't work. There was only one option.

“Two rods, four screws, and five pieces of cadaver bones suck in my lower back,” he says, grimacing with pain still lingering in his back. “The hard thing about that was knowing if I had that surgery it was going to end my career.”

The dream he had as a boy is over.

“When I no longer had a say-so in that, I lost that sense of control and had become a victim.”

It would have been easy to quit. Instead, Sam spent the last seven years back at school, buried in law books, turning in his gun for a spot in front of the gavel.

Now, as a new graduate, he’s doing what he loves again at the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor’s office, working drug and drunk driving felonies.


Prosecutor, Nick Hermann hired him because of experience in the field and a passion for law.

“Incidents like that change you,” Hermann says, “he tells you from a stand point of, ‘I didn’t want the guy to get away, I don't want this to happen to other people.’”

With every action, there’s an equal and opposite, and in Sam’s case, the action of one drunk driver changed him forever.

“Your decisions not only affect your life but they can affect someone else’s life.”


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