LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Michigan State Police hope to graduate more recruits by changing how much time soon-to-be troopers spend in the academy compared to learning in the field.
The change comes as many police departments across the country face recruiting issues.
State officials said revamping training means 24 weeks living at the academy will go to 20 weeks with 15 days of additional training once these new troopers are learning in the field.
Training officers and a policing expert said it’s an example of how departments are trying to attract more officers.
“Wooo are you sure? Like is this the path you want to decide? Cause like you said, there’s a lot of scrutiny right now with everything but they’ve all been incredibly supportive,” said recruit Cameron Waggoner.
24-year-old Waggoner said his family was reluctant when he first told them he wanted to be a Michigan State Trooper.
He is one of 59 men and women to go through a new training structure. Officials said condensing training into 20 weeks down from 24 could help retention while still surpassing the state-required 594 hours of basic instruction by which the academy nearly doubles.
Capitan James Grady oversees recruits as the commander of the training division.
“It will help them retain information better and then they got something to compare it to because they have been out in the field and started to do the job,” he said.
Grady said the change hopes to also tackle some barriers like the stress caused by family separation.
State data shows that in the last two years, the number of applications has been falling in recent classes.
2020’s first recruit class, the 137th Trooper Recruit School, has more than a thousand applicants compared to 76 applicants for the 2022 spring class.
It’s something Grady has noticed and says changing public perception is one of the factors
“I think sometimes it’s the media coverage. You don’t hear all the details in the incidents so you don’t know everything,” said Grady.
Michigan State University professor Jeremy Wilson told 6 News many departments are facing low retention and recruitment numbers while adding more responsibilities to officers. Wilson says while some agencies like MSP are changing training to be more appealing, others are changing their requirements. In one article, he says some departments are lowering physical fitness and education standards to fill their ranks.
Back in training, Waggnor said he’s determined for the road ahead.
“I think what gets it for me is the people and the sacrifice and the dedication to the job,” said Waggnor.
As department leaders grow concerned with recruiting and retention, Wilson suggests departments evaluate their workload and base their staffing needs on that.