MARYSVILLE — If you think you’ve got what it takes to be a Washington State Patrol officer, you may need to think again. The agency is on a major recruiting drive as hundreds of officers are getting close to retirement.
The WSP has no shortage of applicants — it seems like plenty of people would be proud to wear one of those hats. But fewer than 10 percent of those who apply make the grade and are offered a position.
Trooper Keith Leary tests an WSP officer on a high-speed pursuit simulation. All active duty troopers go through hundreds of hours of rigorous training every year. Before candidates get to this point, they have to pass the department’s physical fitness test and it’s not easy.
Men between the ages of 20 and 29 must complete 38 sit-ups in 60 seconds and then 29 push-ups in 60 seconds. After that, they have to run 1.5 miles in 12 minutes, 29 seconds or less.
For women, they have to complete 32 sit-ups in a minute and 15 push-ups in a minute and they get a little more than 15 minutes to run 1.5 miles.
Even Washington’s Most Wanted’s Parella Lewis missed the run after nailing the rest of the test.
“We’re losing people really quick, which makes us go back to square one,” Leary said. “We need a heck of a lot more applicants to be able to weed them out at the end of the day so we can hire them.”
Between the polygraph, written exams and physical requirements, candidates drop out in droves. But WSP is committed to maintaining its standards.
“We’ve heard other agencies dropping standards because they’re having a hard time getting folks through their process,” Leary said. “We’re not going to do that. There’s been no talk about doing that right now. We don’t want to compromise the quality of people we have.”
WSP prefers homegrown applicants, but are willing to cast a wider net if they must.
“If we have to go across the whole country and look for people, then that’s what we want. We’re the best law enforcement agency in Washington, if not the country,” Leary said.
Another problem for WSP is that some qualified candidates wind up working for other law enforcement agencies. Because of budget problems in Olympia, other police departments often end up paying better than the WSP is able.
But if you think you’re WSP material, the cadet test is Sept. 4 at Lynnwood High in Bothell — you might want to start training for the physical exam now.