Washington State Patrol changes employment screening

by: Natasha Chen Updated:

TACOMA, Wash -  In an effort to recruit from a wider applicant pool, the Washington State Patrol is changing its approach to the initial screening process to become a trooper.

Currently a list of qualifying requirements is on their website. The checklist includes:  no visible tattoos, no use or possession of any controlled substances more than five times combined, no use or possession of those drugs in the last three years and no use or possession of marijuana within the last year.

One must not have ever used opiates or heroin, nor have injected any non-prescribed drugs.

Some of these listed requirements have scared off applicants, according to Robert Calkins of the Washington State Patrol.

Calkins said, “We frankly thought we had plenty of people coming that would have made fine employees, who were looking at our website and deciding to go elsewhere.”

Now people are encouraged to apply so that the state patrol can evaluate the person as a whole.

“We’re struggling to hire a sufficient number to fill our academy classes.  So we’ve been looking to see what we can do to both shorten the process and get more people successfully through the process,” Calkins said.

Calkins says there are 223 troopers and sergeants who may retire in the next four years.  A major hiring push in the 80s and 90s means many of them are now nearing the end of their careers.

Some rules will not change.  For example, an applicant cannot have had any felonies, any cases of domestic violence, or any history of selling drugs.

This goes beyond convictions on record.  Applicants must share all of their history, undergo a lie detector test, and pass a written test, oral test, physical agility test and medical test.

Those who are unfit for duty will still be disqualified.

But those who have some minor infractions may end up being better troopers.

“People who have more life experience make better employees. So what we’re willing to do is maybe listen to some of those life experiences that maybe weren’t positive and consider them in terms of the whole person,” he said.

Drivers told KIRO 7 they agreed that troopers with some experience themselves could prove beneficial.

“Bad things happen to good people, so I mean it just depends, I guess,” said Kyle Crabtree.

Aaron Radke said, “It could also make them a little more aware of people trying to be sneaky or trying to get away with it, too.”

Still others believe this is a bad idea.

“He’s our protector, you know?” said Tra Son. “He shouldn’t be having that kind of background. I don’t think it would be fair to anybody.”