Patrol seeks more than a few good candidates

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The Washington State Patrol is looking to hire its largest group of troopers in nearly 25 years, and has adopted a statewide recruiting strategy.

The plan is to replace the 300 men and women who are expected to retire in the next five years. Trooper Chris Thorson, who is in charge of recruiting for Yakima, the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla, said he hoped to increase the number of applicants from the Walla Walla area.

“I know that there’s a lot of good people from this area,” he said.

The patrol has been having trouble finding enough qualified applicants to replace retiring troopers. Thorson said its strategy is to make recruiters available throughout the state, with one person assigned to each of the patrol’s eight districts.

“We’re a lot more accessible to call and speak to us,” he said.

The application process has four phases, the first of which is a physical and written test. As part of the efforts to make applications easier for people on the east side of the state, Thorson said the tests, as well as the phase 2 interview, can be done in Kennewick. In the past, applicants have had to drive to Olympia for all four stages of the applications process, which presented an obstacle for some.

“We’ve never done this before, to hold two hiring processes out in the field,” he said.

The patrol needs to have 67 trooper cadets by June, when the next training academy class begins. The challenge is that only 3 to 4 percent of applicants successfully complete all four stages of the application process. About half don’t make it past the physical and written test, something Thorson hopes the patrol’s revamped website will help change.

The site, wps.wa.gov, includes a study guide for the written test and videos of the physical exams being administered, so applicants know exactly what to expect.

Other applicants are having issues with portions of the background check. Many people who apply have a DUI, which disqualifies them, and others have drug convictions or use problems, mostly of marijuana and prescription pills, according to Thorson.

The marijuana guidelines, which disqualify applicants who have more than three possession charges, or have used marijuana more than 15 times in their life, or in the past three years, have not changed even with the legalization of marijuana in the state.

Troopers spend the majority of their time on patrol responding to calls for service and crashes on state highways, in addition to enforcing DUIs and other traffic laws.

Thornson said that although the position offers stability with good pay and benefits, the main attraction for people is the sense of purpose that comes with the work.

“Applicants call me who already have good jobs and they’re not satisfied with what they’re doing,” he said.

The next testing date for applicants is March 9 in Kennewick. Applicants must have an application completed before testing.

Thorson is available to answer questions about the application process. He can be reached at 731-8964 or Christopher.Thorson@wsp.wa.gov.

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