Acute trooper shortage prompts state police hiring initiative

VSP hiring initiative

An acute shortage of Virginia State Police troopers has prompted it to initiate an abbreviated academy program for existing law enforcement officers.  “It’s really gotten to a critical stage probably in the last two to three years,” said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller of the trooper shortage.  Through Aug. 31, Virginia State Police had 237 vacancies and a sworn force of 2,138, according to Geller, which includes troopers, special agents, commercial vehicle enforcement officers and supervisors.  She was unable to break down the vacancies by division.  From Jan. 1, 2016, through Aug. 31, 262 sworn personnel have left the department — 157 in 2016 and 105 in 2017, Geller said.  The 2015 Virginia State Police’s Manpower Augmentation Study, based on calls for service and investigation caseloads, calls for an additional 932 sworn personnel in order to provide 24-hour coverage throughout Virginia.  The study showed that in Division V, which covers James City and York counties, much of the Peninsula, south Hampton Roads and Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the state police needs an additional 139 troopers.  The study noted that James City County is authorized to have 11 troopers, but needs 14, while York County is authorized to have 12 troopers, but needs 11.  The abbreviated state police academy program, which will run eight weeks instead of the normal six months, is unprecedented in the department’s 85-year history, Geller said.  Law enforcement officers who are Department of Criminal Justice certified and have at least three years experience, are eligible for the accelerated program.  Even with the 2017 General Assembly approving salary increases, Virginia State Police Superintendent Stephen Flaherty said in a news release that many of its field divisions across the state have vacancy rates approaching 50 percent.  “Despite the salary increases provided by the Virginia General Assembly this year, state police continue to struggle to prevent our sworn personnel from leaving for other agencies and then to fill those growing agencies in a timely manner,” Flaherty said.  Trooper starting salaries had been $36,207 before the General Assembly action.  The new starting salary is $48,719, except for beginning troopers in Northern Virginia, who make $60,587.  In the 2017 session, the General Assembly approved extra funding to hike the starting salary to make it more competitive.  Also, the General Assembly approved a 3 percent raise across the board for state workers, including troopers, and it also increased compression pay, which provides an increase in salary for existing troopers.  “The pay raises have not sustained, so you’ve got folks who have been with the department for an extended period of time almost making as much, or less than, someone who is starting new,” Geller said.  The previous starting salary, according to Geller, did not allow the state police to compete with localities or with other state police agencies across the country.  Geller said the 30 troopers in the academy set to graduate in October is one of the smallest classes the state police has had in a decade. Typically, she said it graduates 60 to 80 people in an academy class.  “We’re just having a difficult time, as is everybody right now, hiring to fill our vacancies,” Geller said.  Virginia State Police are not only seeing fewer applications, the department is also not getting enough people to meet its standards, Geller said.  But with a multitude of priorities — combating a rise in traffic deaths, investigating drug and violent crimes — Geller said troopers are foregoing vacations and time off to cover for one another.  “We need the people in order to fulfill our whole mission,” Geller said. “A lot of folks think we’re just troopers who work crashes and write tickets.”  Virginia State Police began accepting applications for its new accelerated lateral entry program Sept. 1, with the next academy class to begin in April 2018.  Those selected for the program, Geller said, will be hired to a specific vacancy somewhere in Virginia.  A scheduled academy class to begin in October, Geller said, was canceled because it wasn’t full.  “We’ve still got to fill the vacancies, not only on our uniform side, but our investigative side as well," Geller said.



Iowa State troopers issue far more tickets for texting

Iowa State Texting tickets

The number of texting while driving tickets has skyrocketed in the two months since the newly enacted law calling for tougher punishments for offenders took effect July 1.  The Iowa State Patrol has issued 230 tickets and 135 warnings for texting while driving since July 1, far more than troopers issued all last year.  State patrol troopers issued fewer than 175 tickets for texting in 2016.  “I’m just watching people’s behaviors as they go by,” Trooper Durk Pearston said.  Officials say it will cost you if you don't put the phone down.  A KCCI crew rode along with the Iowa State Patrol, and it didn't take long to find someone breaking the law.  “The guy had his cell phone, still has it in his right hand there, but had it down in his lap by the steering wheel,” Pearston said.  Alex Dinkla, an Iowa State Patrol spokesperson, said with the law being so new, they have to come up with creative ways to catch drivers in the act.  Watching driving habits isn’t easy in a marked car.  “Any time we have a marked law enforcement unit, full light bars, full stickers on the car, is people will instantly see that unit and they put their phone down and we know that right afterwards, they’re probably picking that phone back up,” Dinkla said.  Some people are so intrigued by their phone, even that doesn't stop them.  “We’re finding it is pretty personnel intensive, so that way we can try to find people that are texting and driving but also to be able to prosecute those charges as well,” Dinka said.  Officials said though talking on your phone is not illegal, it can be just as much of a distraction.  “You’re driving for yourself. But you also have to drive for everybody else on the road that might be on their phone or texting while driving,” Pearston said.  Officers are using unmarked vehicles and plain-clothed troopers to catch motorists, but it can still be difficult for them to spot violations, said Maj. Randy Kunert, who heads the state patrol’s field operations.  “The districts reported success in finding some violations, but indicated it is still a hard violation to detect,” he said.  “It is very personnel intensive and often only one or two traffic stops were made per hour.”  Sen. Tim Kapucian, R-Keystone, said the enforcement efforts send a strong message to the community that texting while driving isn’t acceptable.  “You know, the word gets out and people will say, ‘Hey, I got a ticket for texting while driving,’ and that is going to reverberate with folks,” Kapucian said.  Texting while driving increases the risk of crashing more than 20 times when compared to driving while not distracted, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.  The fine for texting while driving is $30, but court costs bring the total cost to about $100, according to the Legislative Services Agency.  Forty-seven states prohibit texting while driving and 15 ban drivers from using hand-held cellphones altogether, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.



California Highway Patrol cracks joke after spotting deer on Bay Bridge

CHP Deer on Golden Gate Bridge

A deer was spotted on the Bay Bridge early Tuesday, and CHP Oakland's Twitter account couldn't help but be a bit punny.  "This morning our officers stopped a doe for toll evasion, on the Bay Bridge," a tweet from the law enforcement agency's Twitter account read.  "She said she usually pays it, but today she was a buck short."  A number of people responded to the tweet with praise.  Tuesday's sighting wasn't the first time deer have decided to hop on a popular Bay Area bridge. Back in 2014, a pair of deer were seen scampering around on the Golden Gate Bridge.



North Carolina State Highway Patrol mourns loss of young Honorary Trooper

NCHP Honorary Trooper

Troopers statewide are in mourning after Honorary Trooper Howell Brown, III. passed away Friday, after a long and courageous battle with cancer.   According to Troopers, Howell was known for his smile and his spirit.  Highway Patrol says after being inducted, Howell immediately became a member of the Patrol family, often spending time with troopers on and off duty.  He served as an inspiration to many, never allowing his medical condition to deter his positive outlook.  Never wavering from opportunity, Howell accompanied Troopers to several events, including the NC State Fair and an entire 18-hole game of golf.  "Howell provided an example for each of us to live by", said Col. Glenn McNeill Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol.  "Although he is no longer with us, we will never forget the positive influence he provided for so many."  A funeral service has been scheduled to take place at Duke Chapel in Durham followed by a private burial.  The State Highway Patrol's Honor Guard will provide full honors during the service, along with remarks provided by Col. Glenn McNeill Jr.



Florida Highway Patrol graduates 33 new troopers

FHP Graduation August 2017

Friday, the 136th basic recruit class of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) graduated from the FHP Training Academy.  These 33 new troopers join the more than 1,900 troopers who patrol Florida’s roads each day to provide safety and security to residents and visitors.  “These new Florida Highway Patrol troopers have made the commitment to serve as heroes in our state, selflessly putting the needs of others above their own,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes.  “As troopers, their interactions with the public will have a lasting, positive impact and their dedication to protecting lives will ultimately help achieve our mission of highway safety and security.”  Members of the 136th basic recruit class went through 28 weeks of intense physical and classroom training covering topics including firearms, defensive tactics, law, vehicle operations and first aid.  While at the FHP Training Academy, recruits also participated in several community service activities, including blood drives and volunteering to help those living with developmental disabilities.  “It is an honor to welcome our newest recruit class to the ranks of trooper,” said Colonel Gene Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol.  “We are proud of our history, and we are pleased to have new troopers to carry on FHP’s commitment toward A Safer Florida.”  “It has been an honor and a privilege to welcome 33 of Florida’s newest law enforcement officers to the Florida Highway Patrol.  FHP has a long tradition of exceptional service to our state and I commend these recruits for selflessly dedicating themselves to public service,” said Senator Rob Bradley.



$1M worth of weed found by West Virginia State Troopers

WVSP Marijuana Bust

Troopers from the West Virginia State Police - Charles Town Detachment were alerted to 110 Alla Willa Drive under the suspicion that a wanted fugitive from Carroll County, Md. was residing there.  "I went there - nobody answered the door.  However, myself and two other troopers with me were able to detect a strong odor of marijuana emitting from the residence," said Trooper C.J. Hill.  "When we left the residence, I applied for a search warrant based on that strong odor."  Troopers then returned to the residence on Saturday around 4 p.m. with a search warrant, and that's when they discovered an indoor grow of marijuana, which consisted of 907 marijuana plants and 212 mason jars containing marijuana "buds."  "We were at the residence about three hours removing the plants, and then there was about 10 to 11 hours of processing at the detachment following that," Trooper Hill added.  "The plants were being grown in the basement of the house, and the packaging operation was taking place on the main floor."  The grand total value of items seized is approximately $1,039,190.



Washington Trooper pulls suicidal man back from ledge of bridge, saves life

WSP Suicidal Man

A Washington State Patrol trooper is credited with saving the life of a suicidal man on Aug. 11.  The trooper responded to the Snohomish River Bridge, where he saw a man standing on the ledge of the bridge, looking down to the water, police said.  Trooper Holodkov went to the man and spoke with him, encouraging him down from the ledge.  When Trooper Holodkov got close, the man jumped over the side of the bridge.  Police say Holodkov grabbed the man’s shirt and pulled him back.  The man was taken to the hospital for a mental evaluation.  “The Washington State Patrol's motto is "Service with Humility" and we strive to make a difference every day,” police said. “The actions of Trooper Holodkov on August 11 illustrate the extent in which our Troopers are dedicated to our motto and mission even when faced with a dangerous situation.”



Louisiana State Police cadets begin intensive training to become state troopers

LSP Cadet Class August 2017

A class of Louisiana State Police cadets moves on to 20 weeks of intense training Sunday, marking a new step in their journey towards becoming state troopers.  However, getting to this point wasn’t an easy task according to the cadets and their superiors.  “Well, I’m excited to have these 36 cadets report for training and hopefully move forward in their progression in becoming an LSP trooper,” State police Superintendent Colonel Kevin W. Reeves said.  After months of academy training, cadet class 96 will head to roughly 20 weeks of training in various subjects, including advanced crash investigation, cultural diversity, effective communication, and leadership skills to name a few.  “What we want to instill in them is character, problem solving abilities, and the law enforcement techniques they will need moving forward,” Reeves said.  Candidates for state police cadet class 96 were chosen after an extensive hiring process.  That process includes a written test, physical assessment, psychological evaluation, background investigation, polygraph and oral interview.  “Well, you know, I see a lot of fear a lot of the unknown. And I remember that from my first day at the training academy.  So we look forward to them progressing through the training process,” Reeves said.  Colonel Reeves is hopeful the cadets will make it through the intense training period they are facing in the coming weeks.  “I certainly hope all of them will make it through.  During the selection process we tried to select the best candidates we could, so that’s why my hope that in 20 weeks we will graduate 20 cadets,” Reeves added.  Upon successful completion of the LSP training academy, the newly graduated cadets will participate in a 10-14 week field training program before beginning their careers of dedication, protection, and service to the citizens of Louisiana.  This is something the Colonel, says the department needs.  “As you know, we're on the edge of losing a lot of employees to retirement next year.  So this will allow us to provide the safety that the public expects.”   Cadet Class 96 is the fifth state police cadet class to be held since January of 2014.  Cadet Class 95 graduated 46 new troopers on April 5th, of this year.



At least 1,200 attend funeral for Virginia State Police pilot Jay Cullen, who died in Charlottesville helicopter crash

VSP Cullens funeral

The second of two state police pilots killed when their helicopter crashed after monitoring street violence in Charlottesville between white supremacists and counter-protesters a week ago was remembered Saturday by friends, family and Virginia’s governor for his quiet commitment to duty and leading the department’s air wing more by listening than talking.  A funeral for Lt. H. Jay Cullen — one day after services for his copilot — ran about two hours in the packed sanctuary of the Southside Church of the Nazarene, to which the service was moved from the Cullen family’s Methodist church to accommodate the overflow turnout.  At least 1,200 people attended, including hundreds of police officers from as far away as California and Texas, as well two former governors, state legislators, judges and Cabinet secretaries.  Col. W. Steven Flaherty, the state police superintendent who met Cullen 17 years ago, said aviation was Cullen’s passion and that he insisted on flying last Saturday because of his familiarly with the computerized video equipment the department used to coordinate the police response to the violence in Charlottesville.  It included the death of a counter-protester allegedly mowed down by a car driven by a white nationalist who has been charged with second-degree murder.  “He listened more than he talked, and when he said something, it was because he had something relevant to say,” Flaherty said of Cullen, adding — to knowing chuckles that rippled across the sanctuary — that the 48-year-old officer who joined state police in 1994 also could make his point with a “wry smile.”  Cullen’s funeral was a moving blend of emotion and precision, opening and closing with the moan of bagpipes and snap of snare drums played by officers from Virginia and other states.  After seven state police pallbearers bore Cullen’s cremated remains to a gray hearse, Gov. Terry McAuliffe presented a folded Virginia flag to Cullen’s widow, Karen, who quietly sobbed.  Police helicopters from nine states flew over the church one by one, the thwack-thwack-thwack of their rotors a tribute to Cullen.  Also — as is the custom at a police funeral — the fallen officer’s badge number is called, approximating the end-of-shift protocol when a trooper goes off duty.  Three times, Nancy Parker, a dispatcher in the Richmond division of state police, called Cullen’s badge number, 71, before announcing, “no contact.”  The ritual was broadcast by radio across the division, which included the state police aviation division Cullen joined in 1999.  In addition to McAuliffe and his wife, Dorothy, the Cullen funeral was attended by Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, the Democratic nominee for governor; Attorney General Mark Herring; former governors Tim Kaine and Jim Gilmore; House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights; Ed Gillespie, the Republican gubernatorial candidate; and Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Fauquier, her party’s nominee for lieutenant governor.  McAuliffe, among several chief executives flown by Cullen, said that Cullen — a lean, cycling enthusiast, the husband of a cancer-surviving school teacher and the father of two teenage sons — was a “silent giant” and a “serious, safety-conscious pilot” with whom the politician shared a love of dogs and sports.  “It won’t be the same when I step into that helicopter without Jay in the right front seat, with ‘Cullen’ on the back of his helmet,” said McAuliffe, who described himself and the first lady as “heartbroken” over the deaths of Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates.  A funeral for Bates, a former member of McAuliffe’s security detail, was held Friday at St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Henrico County.  McAuliffe said that on Friday night he gathered with officers from across Virginia and other states in a Shockoe Bottom nightspot favored by Bates for “an Irish wake for the two Irishmen,” hoisting glasses of Jameson whiskey to the troopers.  The governor later tweeted photographs of the gathering.



Nebraska graduates 19 troopers

NSP Graduation August 2017

Gov. Pete Ricketts welcomed the latest class of Nebraska State Patrol troopers Friday with an admonition to remember that they represent Nebraska.  “By putting on that uniform and serving our citizens, you are a symbol of our state,” he said.  “It’s up to you now to represent our state to the highest levels of service and integrity.”  Ricketts joined Attorney General Doug Peterson in speaking to the 15 men and three women graduating from the patrol’s training academy.  The 18 graduates were members of the academy’s 58th basic recruit class.  They took the oath of office and received their badges and law enforcement certificates in a ceremony at the State Capitol.  It was the first such ceremony since the patrol came under fire this summer for falsifying internal investigations and ignoring reports of sexual harassment.  In July, Ricketts fired then-Col. Brad Rice from the patrol’s top job for possibly interfering with internal investigations and violating agency policy.  The Governor’s Office followed up this month with a report that substantiated the allegations of interference and concluded that patrol administrators had ignored complaints from a female trooper about a highly questionable medical exam she underwent as a recruit.  At Friday’s graduation ceremony, Ricketts made reference to the problems that have surfaced in the patrol.  “We know the State Patrol has had some challenges,” the governor told the new troopers.  But he expressed confidence that the patrol will overcome its challenges and be a better agency in the future.  “I know that because I know the quality of the men and women” in the patrol, Ricketts said.  Peterson, while not directly referencing the patrol’s problems, warned recruits that one of their biggest challenges will be learning how to deal with adrenaline.  That hormone is released in times of stress and danger.  He said he has seen the effects of adrenaline in videos of encounters between law enforcement and citizens.  “I have seen great officers lose their judgment because adrenaline overtook that judgment,” Peterson said.  He also told the group that being a State Patrol trooper requires courage, wisdom and great integrity.  He advised them never to compromise on integrity.



FCA US extends officer protection package to 2018 Dodge Charger Pursuit




State Police increase patrols to target distracted drivers on Mackinac Bridge

MSP Mackinac Bridge

Michigan State Police have started to increase enforcement on the Mackinac Bridge due to distracted drivers taking photos and videos while crossing the bridge.  Troopers from the St. Ignace State Police Post have recently increased specific patrols of the Mackinac Bridge to target distracted and careless drivers.  State Police say there has been a steady increase of videos found on internet sites showing drivers taking photos, filming video and doing many other activities other than focusing on controlling their vehicles.  A recent focused enforcement detail resulted in several drivers contacted and educated on the dangers of distracted and careless driving.  Troopers say these poor driving habitats are particularly dangerous on the bridge during construction season. Troopers will continue with focused enforcement of distracted and careless driving on the Mackinac Bridge and will take appropriate enforcement action to discourage these behaviors.  Troopers would like to remind the public that the law prohibits drivers from operating their vehicles in a careless or negligent manner likely to endanger any person or property.  This would include a driver taking photographs or video while traversing the bridge.  Additionally, Michigan law prohibits a driver from reading, manually typing, or sending a text message while driving.



Lip-Syncing State Troopers patrolling State Fair 'Are Back' with a new hit song


The lip-syncing Indiana State Troopers have returned to the internet with a new viral hit.  Video of the four cops rocking out to Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” from their golf cart while patrolling the Indiana State Fair emerged this week, a long-awaited reprise of last year's viral performance.  Of course, their fans were already expecting a Part 2 after the team lip-synced to the Grease hit “Summer Nights” during the same state fair last year.  “We weren’t going to do any videos this year, but everybody seemed to want us to do it so we decided to throw one together,” Trooper Jonathon Amburgey told  He said it didn’t take long for his group, consisting of troopers Brent Lemberg, Dustin Rutledge and Jon Cole, to pick a song.  “We felt like it fit perfectly since we’re all from different parts of the state,” Amburgey said.  Although it took a while to for the four of them to get it perfectly, Amburgey explained it wasn’t much different than their daily routine.  “We listen to Pandora and drive around and patrol,” he said. “Every day, it’s a different genre.”



Texas Department of Public Safety seized more than 300 pounds of marijuana

DPS Seized Marijuana

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) seized more than 300 pounds of marijuana on Sunday in Starr County.  Responding to a request for assistance by U.S. Border Patrol at approximately 9:50 p.m. regarding possible drug trafficking activity, Texas Rangers and a DPS Criminal Investigations Division Agent responded to the area of Blanca Road in Rio Grande City.  The driver of the 1994 Jeep Laredo abandoned the vehicle and fled on foot, but was apprehended by DPS.  A subsequent search of the vehicle revealed 30 bundles of Marijuana, totaling 343 pounds, worth an estimated over $2 million, in the rear cargo area.



2017 Best Looking Cruiser Contest Results

2017 Calendar Collage

Congratulations! to the Georgia State Patrol for being voted the 2017 America’s Best Looking Cruiser.

This is the second year back to back that the Georgia State Patrol has received the honors and will be the

cruiser featured on the cover of the “2018 America’s Best Looking Cruiser Calendar”.

The contest received almost 300,000 “likes” and reached 2.2 million people.  Thank you to everyone who participated to make this year’s contest a success.

The 2017 top 13 finalists are listed below.

1st           Georgia State Patrol

2nd         West Virginia State Police

3rd          Minnesota State Patrol

4th           Tennessee Highway Patrol

5th           North Carolina State Highway Patrol

6th           Alabama Law Enforcement Agency

7th           Kentucky State Police

8th           Oregon State Police

9th           Delaware State Police

10th         Massachusetts State Police

11th         Ohio State Highway Patrol

12th         Michigan State Police

13th         Pennsylvania State Police

The 2018 Calendars will be available to purchase at beginning October 1, 2017.

Watch for the announcement on the AAST Facebook page.

Net proceeds of the calendar sales will benefit the American Association of State Troopers Foundation that provides educational scholarship to dependents of member troopers.