Three graduates of the Washington State Patrol’s 107th Trooper Basic Training Course share why they chose to work for the agency. (Washington State Patrol video)

Forty-nine troopers join ranks of Washington State Patrol

Graduation underscores state efforts to attract more troopers

The 49 Washington State Patrol cadets who graduated from trooper training today are helping put a significant dent in the agency’s trooper shortage.

State Patrol has struggled with attracting and retaining troopers, who could make more money at numerous other police agencies around the state. In some instances, they could make 20 percent more at another law enforcement agency than as a state trooper.

Prior to today’s graduation ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, State Patrol had 127 vacancies among troopers who patrol Washington’s roadways — a 19 percent vacancy rate.

The Washington State Patrol Academy produces approximately three cadet classes each biennium, which accounts for about 100 to 120 new troopers. Historically, only about 4 to 6 percent of applicants make the grade to become troopers.

Today’s graduates of the 107th Trooper Basic Training Course completed more than 1,000 hours of training, which included learning Washington state laws and even being pepper sprayed.

Hundreds gathered in the state’s Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday to mark the graduation of 49 Washington State Patrol cadets from the 107th Trooper Basic Training Course. (Official Governor’s Office Photo)

They were sworn in by the Associate Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court Mary Fairhurst and were presented their commission cards by Gov. Jay Inslee and Chief John Batiste, who welcomed them into an organization known and trusted by the citizens of Washington state.

“The 49 cadets graduating today endured a rigorous application process, extensive background investigation, and received the best training, unmatched anywhere else in the nation,” Batiste said. “Today, they will join the ranks of Washington’s finest, as troopers of the Washington State Patrol.”

Inslee thanked the graduating class for choosing to serve and protect Washingtonians, and thanked the graduates’ families for supporting them on their journey.

“When you encounter a citizen on the road, you are the state of Washington,” Inslee told the graduates.

State Patrol has seen improvements in hiring over the past year, especially since Inslee approved a 5.8 percent trooper wage increase, which went into effect in July 2016, State Patrol spokesman Kyle Moore said. Today’s graduating class started out with 60 cadets, which made it the largest class in the history of the agency.

“Since the raises, it’s really made a big difference in not only attracting troopers to come through the doors but also retaining the troopers that we have,” Moore said. “It puts us in line with other competitive law enforcement agencies in Washington.”

In 2015, nearly 9 troopers per month were leaving the State Patrol, many of them retiring or joining other police forces. In 2016, that number decreased to an average of 5.5 troopers leaving each month.

The Legislature this year approved additional wage increases for State Patrol workers in its transportation budget, which is awaiting a signature from the governor.

Following today’s graduation, there are now 78 vacancies in the agency’s roadway patrol jobs. It’s an improvement, but State Patrol is still aggressively seeking applicants.

“We’re really looking for people to apply,” Moore said.

Anyone interested in becoming a state trooper can learn more at trooperstories.com.