Missouri Highway Patrol Hoping to Attract New Recruits

Missouri Highway Patrol Hoping to Attract New Recruits
By: Amy Jacquin

As many businesses are downsizing, a large employer in Missouri is having a hard time attracting qualified applicants. Troop E of the Highway Patrol is now operating at a 10% shortage. It's a problem repeated across the state. And the patrol is finding it more difficult to attract new recruits.

Long hours, moderate pay and potential danger. Not an ideal job for many people.

"It takes a special person," admits Sgt. Larry Plunkett, Jr. "It takes a special spouse. It's a real team effort."

Missouri Highway Patrol Troopers put their lives on the line with every traffic stop or investigation. The recent murder of Sgt. Dewayne Graham punctuates the possibilities.

"A lot of people don't like the sacrifices you have to make, or the lifestyle," adds Plunkett.

The average class testing to become a trooper shrunk from more than four thousand a few years ago, to only about one thousand this year. It's a long, slow process. Many don't pass different phases, and others end-up accepting different jobs along the way.

After someone signs up, the testing and training phases take at least a year and a-half... and costs the state $57,000 per new recruit. That's why the state asks new recruits to sign a three-year contract, to recoup some of that training expense and hopefully prevent them from moving on to other higher-paying departments.

A trooper's starting pay is almost $32,000. Missouri law makers recently approved a three year plan to get troopers salaries more in-line with other large police departments.

"We still have a ways to go," says Sgt. Plunkett. "But it offers us hope for the future. And he biggest thing it's done is slow down the number we're losing due to resignations."

New recruits can apply for advancement after a couple of years... to positions like criminal investigations, narcotics officers, or gaming commissioners. But the patrol won't compromise on the rigorous and time-consuming testing and screening process.

"We'd rather not make a hire or fill a position, over making a bad hire," Plunkett summarizes.

The newest batch of recruits will graduate soon. But there are only 37 graduates to fill 73 vacancies! Troop E already knows it's only getting four of its eight open positions filled. All they can hope for is a bigger batch of qualified applicants next time... but that class won't graduate until 2006.

You can get more information about the recruitment process, open positions, and benefits at the Highway Patrol's web site . Or call 1-800-796-7000.