Missouri State Highway Patrol acting superintendent reflects on changes in Highway Patrol, society
Minutes after being named as the Missouri Highway Patrol's next superintendent, Lt. Col. Sandra Karsten last Wednesday told the 29 members of the current recruit class: "The Patrol is a great organization — I've had a passion for it since I was 17 years old." Karsten, 53, will be the 23rd superintendent — and the first woman to be appointed to head the now-85-year-old Patrol. She holds the job on an "acting" basis until she is confirmed by the Missouri Senate — with her confirmation hearing to be scheduled during this legislative session. "I have an older brother and grew up on a farm, and anything he could do, I could do," she said, explaining her initial interest in the Patrol and a law enforcement career. "I attended the program by the American Legion Cadet Patrol Academy, here (at General Headquarters) — it's a week for 16- to 18-year-olds, and they introduce you to recruit training. "I was so impressed that I wanted to be a part of that organization." But first, after graduating from high school, Karsten went to Truman State University, graduating in May 1985 with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. She joined the Highway Patrol in September 1985 and began training with the other new recruits of the 57th Recruit Class — 11 years after the first women had attended the Patrol Academy. (The current group is the 104th Recruit Class). Since joining the Patrol, Karsten also has earned a master's degree in public administration from the University of Missouri. After graduating from the Patrol Academy, she was assigned to road duties in Callaway and Audrain counties — and noted the technology used by the Patrol today is far-advanced from what was available 31 years ago. "When I came on, we had a high- and a low-band radio," she recalled. "Now we have a digital system" as well as the use of cellphones and computers in cars. "It's just amazing how much technology is in the cars now," she said. She also pointed to engineering changes — like median cable barriers on interstate highways and primary routes like U.S. 63 — that have occurred over the years. Big changes also have occurred in personnel policies, she reported — and she helped the Patrol develop some of them. "When I became pregnant the first time, there was no policy on what to do with a pregnant trooper," Karsten recalled. "So, through the course of my pregnancy, I was able to develop a policy. "It's a temporary condition — it doesn't last forever, thank goodness — so we were able to treat it as that." Yes, she acknowledged — the Patrol didn't have a policy for dealing with pregnant employees, even though she wasn't the first woman to work for the agency. "How they dealt with it with the first women was," Karsten explained, "she knew, 'If I get pregnant, I have to stop working for the Patrol.' "We even had that in the 1960s and early '70s — that many of our civilian employees, when they became pregnant, had to stop working for the Patrol until the pregnancy was concluded." Today, the new superintendent said, the Patrol has changed a great deal. "We're very inclusive of all people, now — whether it's a mom, a dad, a partner or whatever the case may be," Karsten said. "I think this signifies how we have grown as an organization." While society has changed, she acknowledged many women still face choices and decisions men usually don't have to make. "In the Patrol, we have so many opportunities, career-wise, that as a mother I had to look at some of those whenever we had children — was it going to be conducive for me to continue working the road?" Karsten explained. "And it was! "I had very supportive supervisors (and) very supportive lieutenants, and since then, I came off the road and we had another child. And that support continued." When asked what advice she might offer to women working in a male-dominated industry, she told reporters: "Sometimes, you've got to figure out how to navigate in a male-dominated profession — sometimes with a sense of humor, sometimes with your proper attitude. "What I have found, though, is that my husband was the greatest partner I could choose, and he has been very supportive. "I would be very careful in selecting your life-mates, is my advice."
Pennsylvania State Police loosens college requirement amid looming trooper shortage
Incoming cadets will no longer have to obtain an associate's degree or 60 hours of college credit prior to applying to the Pennsylvania State Police Academy, the agency announced Tuesday. The move is part of a number of changes designed to boost recruitment amid an anticipated wave of trooper retirements and flagging enrollment. "This change gives applicants greater flexibility when planning for their career with the Pennsylvania State Police," Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker said, in a written statement. "The change, while not lowering standards, allows individuals to continue their education while in the application process." Blocker said cadets would still be required to meet the education requirement before training began. Hundreds of troopers are expected to retire this year as those who graduated from the academy during a hiring wave in the early '90s become eligible for retirement. In Pennsylvania, state troopers may retire with a partial pension after 20 years of service or a full pension after 25 years. Last year, the academy's four cadet classes graduated a total of 271 new troopers at the same time that 800 others reached retirement age. That level of incoming troopers fell far behind 2015's four classes, which graduated 406. It typically takes cadets between a year and 18 months to move through the process, from application through graduation from the academy. This year, 800 troopers become eligible to retire as 350 cadets are expected to replenish the ranks. Meanwhile, a new administration has set about improving diversity in an agency that has seen its share of nonwhite troopers dwindle from 12 percent in 1999 to about 6 percent today. Earlier this month, the state police eliminated a requirement that all recruits pass a lie-detector test. State police officials previously told PennLive that the polygraphs were comprehensive enough that they could snag prospective cadets on minor infractions they thought were well behind them. The move garnered criticism among the rank-and-file, as well as from the union that represents current troopers. Other requirements have not changed. Cadets must be at least 20 years old when they complete the application. In order to be appointed to the academy, they must be between 21 and 40 years old. They must also take a written and oral examination. After those preliminary steps, cadets move on to a background check, physical testing and medical and psychological evaluations. Cadets who make it to the 27-week training program at the academy earn a $1,200 biweekly salary. The starting salary for troopers is set at $58,962.
Governor Eric Greitens names Sandy Karsten as first women to lead Missouri Highway Patrol
Gov. Eric Greitens on Wednesday named Lt. Col. Sandy Karsten as the new chief of the Missouri Highway Patrol, the first woman to hold the position in the patrol’s 81-year history. As lieutenant colonel, Karsten has served as the second-ranking patrol officer under Nixon appointee Col. Bret Johnson, who has retired. She began her career as a trooper, and is now tasked with overseeing more than 1,000 uniformed officers. Making the announcement after speaking to new recruits, Greitens highlighted both Karsten's experience and volunteer work in the community, saying Karsten has “led at every level with courage and commitment.” He also reiterated his support for law enforcement – a priority he’s highlighted since becoming chief executive on Jan. 9, pushing for an alert system to help locate those who’ve harmed officers and tough criminal penalties for harming officers. "I am always going to stand with our law enforcement officers on the front lines," Greitens said.
Colonel Ann C. Assumpico formally sworn in Monday as Rhode Island's new state police superintendent
Amid a swirl of pomp and ceremony that included bagpipers, drummers, three of her predecessors and most of the state's elected officials, Col. Ann C. Assumpico was formally sworn Monday as the new state police superintendent. An audience of more than 500 people, dozens of them in the uniforms of Rhode Island's local police departments, filled a third-floor ballroom at the Convention Center to witness Assumpico's swearing in. Gov. Gina N. Raimondo promoted Assumpico in November from captain in charge of the state police training. The governor said that training experience meant the new superintendent would be well-positioned to improve the department's recruiting diversity while, after nearly a quarter-century in the department, being able to address its other needs as well. "This is a woman who has decades of experience and knows how to do the job," Raimondo said. The 11 a.m. ceremony, which included an honor guard and the drums and bagpipers of the Rhode Island Highlanders Pipe Band, lasted more than an hour. Assumpico remained for more than an hour after that to stand in a receiving line to accept congratulations and pose for pictures with well-wishers. Those who spoke included Raimondo, Assumpico's brother-in-law and two of her mentors, former state warden Albert Gardner and retired state police superintendent Edmond S. Culhane. Assumpico is the first woman chosen to head the state police, capping a so-far 24-year career with the force. Before joining the state police Assumpico, 59, was a corrections officer at the Adult Correctional Institutions and a Coventry police officer. Her predecessor, Steven G. O'Donnell, also started as a corrections officer. Gardner told of the time he was directing the corrections department's training program and Assumpico was one of his trainees. The class had to rappel down the side of the tower at the state police firefighting training center. "Her eyes y. were as big as saucers," Gardner said, recalling the look on Assumpico's face when told she had to leap out of the tower window. "But she did it over and over until she was laughing on the way down," he said. Her brother-in-law Arthur L. Serpa said no one who knew her questioned her drive, but said she also has compassion. He remembered a time when she had issued a traffic citation that could have cost a man his license, and the ability to get to work at Electric Boat. She went to the hearing, he said, and asked the judge allow the man to be able to drive to and from work. Assumpico spoke of how, when she started in law enforcement, the chances of a woman leading the state police had seemed remote. But she said her ascension sent a message to all potential recruits that with competence and a willingness to work, it was possible. She noted that in the audience of hundreds who filled the Convention Center Ballroom for the ceremony were beside law enforcement officers, senators, congressmen, mayors and judges. She said that showed that the state police was not the province of one colonel, but that it is entwined with other agencies and organizations. "This position is not held by one person alone," she said.