Highway Patrol seeks applicants to counter ‘severe shortage’

Recruiter: “We’re trying to find some good people” 

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

Eight might not seem like a large number, but it’s a significant percentage of the number of troopers assigned to Troop H, District 2 of the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

The area covers Richmond and Scotland counties, and Trooper Will Winchester said that a recruitment session scheduled for early next month in Laurinburg aims to begin filling those current and future vacancies.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com The North Carolina Highway Patrol is looking for local trooper applicants to fill current and anticipated vacancies.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
The North Carolina Highway Patrol is looking for local trooper applicants to fill current and anticipated vacancies.

The session is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 6 at the Scotland county Emergency Response Center, located at 1403 West Blvd. in Laurinburg.

Winchester said the district now has five openings and expects a sixth within three months. In addition, he said, there are up to two more troopers expected to retire.

“We know that if we can recruit people from that area,” Winchester said, “they’re more apt to come back home and want to be there. It’s good for us. I think it’s good for the community.”

Winchester said the goal of the recruitment session — the first step in a lengthy selection process — is to introduce what the North Carolina Highway Patrol does to prospective applicants and provide an overview of trooper training, applicant qualifications, application procedures, benefits and pay, retirement information and more.

The session also will explain “the need for good, qualified applicants” and the importance of hiring and retaining those qualified applicants as successful state troopers.

“We have to meet our objectives as far as manpower and coverage,” Winchester said. “Right now, in our troop (District 2 is) in the most need.”

It’s no short feat going for an individual to evolve from prospective applicant to trooper.

“There’s a lot of moving parts when you talk about patrol and recruitment,” Winchester said.

Winchester said Highway Patrol is losing about 10 troopers per month due to retirement. The problem dates back to the late 1980s, he said, when Highway Patrol conducted nearly half a dozen training academies back-to-back.

Combine that attrition rate with an estimated nine-month application process plus the time it takes a cadet to get through the training academy — seven months — plus another 12 weeks before a trooper can patrol the road solo.

Academy training is rigorous, Winchester said, and nearly one-third of cadets don’t complete training.

“It’s challenging,” Winchester said. “We make it that way” to test mental strength as well as self-control and self-discipline.

“If you work hard, if you apply yourself … once you obtain that goal … you’re going to respect it more, you’re going to have pride in it, you’re going to take care of it.”

“We lost a lot of people in our academy,” Winchester continued. “At some point in patrol school regardless of who you are, it’s challenging for everybody on a certain level.”

Winchester said training is one part culture shock — cadets are in a “totally different environment” and a high-stressed environment constantly.

“It’s long days and short nights,” he said. “There’s no down time at all. Your day is scheduled out from day one for the next 29 weeks.”

There is also a physical component as well.

“It’s tough,” Winchester said. “We push people to the point they haven’t been pushed before. You owe it to your family, you owe it to yourself to come home every night at the end of your shift.”

But there’s a lot of work to be done before an applicant ever has to worry about that.

“To wear this uniform,” Winchester said, “you’re going to have to earn it.”

Contact Winchester by phone at 704-215-3482 or send an email to him at william.winchester@ncdps.gov.

Qualifications

“It’s a great career,” Winchester said of being a state trooper. “It’s about service at the end of the day. We’re committed to that.”

That commitment begins before every putting on the uniform by meeting certain basic standards. Men and women recruits must be between the ages of 21 and 39 — they can turn 40 while in training — and must have a high school diploma or GED.

If the applicant has had military service, it must be an honorable discharge. Any “uncharacterized” discharge must be explained in a written statement.

Benefits

The starting pay for an entry-level state trooper is $35,000 per year in base salary and up to $58,000 within six years. That doesn’t include a 10 percent shift differential for second or third shift or time-and-a-half for holiday work and overtime.

Retirement after 20 years is at 103 percent, and once at that mark a trooper’s health insurance is paid for life. While in service, the trooper’s health insurance is also paid for.

Disqualifications

An applicant for state trooper can not have been charged with a felony, convicted of a felony or committed any act considered a felony.

Those individuals, Winchester said, are on the “permanently denied” list as unacceptable to the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards.

Class B misdemeanors, such as DUI or misdemeanor larceny, must be five years removed. An applicant must not have a suspension on his or her driver’s license within the last three years.

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