Training the troopers


The Mirror

Jason Keays started patrolling south King County and Federal Way as a state trooper in January.

Keays, 32, chose the State Patrol because it was the best of the best in his estimation.

While the agency takes care who it hires, the organization is experiencing a problem many other professions –– like teaching, nursing and professional trades –– are confronting: There aren’t enough qualified applicants.

From 1990 to 1994, 13,834 people applied to the State Patrol, but from 2000 to 2004, the number dropped almost 45 percent to 6,194.

While having more than 6,000 applicants over four years is a lot of people, State Patrol Academy officials say typically 10 percent of the applicants make it to basic trooper training.

The attrition doesn’t end there, because typically about 1 percent of the class is dropped or decides to leave.

Fewer applicants, coupled with a surge in retirement as veteran troopers with 25 and 30 years experience end their careers, means the organization can’t keep up with the vacancies, Capt. Fred Fakkema said.

“We have holes to fill,” said Fakkema, the academy commander.

In 2004, the agency anticipated 16 retirements, and by July 31 of that year, there were 18. Officials expected another 10 before the year was out.

Over the next six years, the State Patrol is projecting between 12 and 19 retiring troopers each year.

Those eligible for retirement will grow substantially in the next decade. This year, 34 commissioned officers are eligible, but in 2010, that shoots up to 64. The figures dip into the 40s and 30s the next three years before going into the 50s in 2014.

The State Patrol isn’t the only law enforcement organization with a shortage of candidates. All agencies are experiencing it and competing for the same shrinking pool, Fokkema said.

One reason for the smaller pool of

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