Help Wanted: Vermont State Police looking for recruits
WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont State Police, like many law enforcement agencies, are having a hard time getting recruits. As part of our ongoing series on high-demand jobs, Our Kayla Martin visited with the state police to learn about the job and what the state is doing to attract more troopers.
Vermont State Police Detective Trooper Christopher Hunt’s partner, Loki, is as loyal as they come. The 21-year veteran trooper works every day with the two-year-old Plott hound as she tracks people and locates bodies.
Hunt says a lot has changed over the years, from public perception to how they operate in the field. “But I think if you’re a fair, approachable person, it’s still a pretty easy job if you treat people the way you want to be treated,” he said
But Lt. Steven Coote, the director of recruiting and training for the Vermont State Police, says they’re having a hard time attracting new recruits. “Not remiss to think that some of the national climate right now with law enforcement and jobs in law enforcement is impacting us right now a bit,” he said. Now, they’re hoping to change that perception. “In terms of police training in the wake of the George Floyd incident, scenario-based training is huge. And we’re trying to build competent, compassionate, and capable troopers.” Coote says that means having mental health experts on campus to simulate what a crisis call would look and feel like. He says they’re introducing this training sooner to recruits than ever before.
But another problem, Coote says, is the pandemic. “Everything from limiting our ability to travel, limiting our application numbers in terms of coming to test and safety protocols, have caused some issues,” he said.
An ideal class size is 20 to 25 recruits. They have 13 in their current class and had 11 in their last class. But Captain Teresa Randall has a plan to attract more recruits -- a social media marketing campaign. “Spotlight Saturday -- where we’re highlighting a trooper saying, ‘We are your troopers, but we’re also your neighbors,’ And what they like to do on their off time,” she said.
Another way they’re trying to attract recruits is with their special teams, including major crimes, K-9 unit, and bomb squad.
Being a part of the bomb squad isn’t like what you see in the movies. Captain David Peterson says it takes a lot of work and preparation. “There is a lot of decision making, a lot of risk assessment that goes into a methodical determination of what action we’re actually going to take,” he said. “Somebody that is curious, you know, has a problem-solving orientation, patient. The rest of the stuff, I think, we can kind of bridge and build with our training.”
A perk of working for the Vermont State Police is the pay. If you have at least three years of prior law enforcement experience, you can make up to $59,000. The base pay for those with no experience is up to $53,000. That also comes with overtime, on-call, holiday pay, and a state pension plan.
But new recruits don’t mean more troopers on the road any time soon. There is an extensive process from written, physical, and psychological tests, to background checks and 16 weeks of training at the police academy.
That all means that the state police are currently being stretched when it comes to staffing. “When people call the police they expect that you’ll be there when you call. But the reality is we have a huge area. We’ll do the best we can,” Hunt said.
He said on any given day in the state three to five troopers are covering the entirety of two counties and one bad crash or a call can divert them from somewhere else.
Hunt says the job has its challenges but it’s worth it. “It is a fulfilling job. I’ve got to do some really fun things, meet some pretty great people,” he said.
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