Faced with dwindling troopers, Vt. State Police realign staffing

Published: Jun. 28, 2023 at 5:27 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) - As the struggle to recruit and retain new state troopers continues, the Vermont State Police is changing its approach to staffing, including transitioning the role of some sworn officers to civilians.

Armin Nukic became a Vermont state trooper last year and was assigned to work out of the Williston barracks, which provides coverage throughout Chittenden and Lamoille Counties.

“I strongly believe that law enforcement was that one way that I was going to be able to give back to humanity/Vermonters and hopefully if not save one life, save many lives,” Nukic said.

But finding new officers to fill the ranks has been a challenge for law enforcement agencies across the country. Vermont is no exception. There are currently 56 sworn officer openings out of about 330 total positions, according to the VSP.

“Most law enforcement agencies are carrying large vacancies and they cannot fill them with qualified people,” said VSP director Col. Matthew Birmingham. He says hiring struggles have led the department to change its approach. The department announced this week that some leadership positions will be filled by professional civilian staff rather than sworn personnel, as well as reducing the number of command staff positions. Birmingham says it will help them to align their resources to meet the state’s policing needs and challenges, specifically surrounding mental health and the opioid crisis. “Those troopers will now be in the field, answering calls for service as opposed to being in a data management position or a technology investigation unit. We’re doing everything we can to try to fill our vacant positions, but the reality is, they’re not being filled fast enough, so we are having to adapt to that reality.”

In the meantime, state police are doubling down on their recruiting efforts. Trooper Nukic says while the job can be challenging, it’s also rewarding. “Every single day is different and no day has really ever been the same. Being able to do this job and gain these experiences -- and be able to give back to the community -- nothing else is like it,” he said.

Col. Birmingham says the move will also help set them up for the future. Over the next three years, more than 30 state police staff -- including Birmingham -- will become eligible for retirement.

Related Stories:

Are hiring and retention bonuses useful? A look at 3 area police departments

Sounding the Alarm: More calls, fewer responders

New employees added to ranks as Burlington Police Dept. works to rebuild

VSP launch new recruitment effort

Longtime Vt. State Police captain to retire, discusses recruitment of women