State Police Career Overview:
State police (sometimes called troopers) are fully empowered law enforcement agencies that provide essential police services on a statewide basis. The state police may be an independent agency or may fall under a Department of Public Safety, Highway Patrol or the State Department of Transportation.
The work of state police encompasses everything from traditional patrol duties to highly specialized investigations. Although the job duties of state police vary from state to state, typical duties include:
- Maintaining regular preventative patrols and assisting motorists and other members of the public;
- Conducting criminal and non-criminal investigations;
- Assisting in the regulation of traffic and enforcing vehicle and traffic laws;
- Maintaining public order and responding to emergencies, civil disorders and disasters;
- Pursuing suspects and effecting arrests; and
- Testifying in court and grand jury proceedings.
Special services performed by state police vary from state to state and may include: aviation, dedicated interstate patrols, canine patrols, SCUBA, counter terrorism, crime analysis, forensic sciences, forensic crime laboratories, commercial vehicle enforcement, mobile response teams (similar to SWAT), narcotics enforcement teams, violent felony warrant squads, marine units, crisis negotiation teams, accident reconstructionists, drug recognition experts, mobile command posts, major crimes units, auto theft units, firearms tracing units, hazardous materials enforcement, and computer crimes units.
Specific educational requirements for state police vary by state. State police generally must possess a high school diploma or General Equivalency Degree (GED) plus an associate’s degree or 60 semester credit hours from an accredited institution of higher learning at the time of application. Service in the military or government or employment as a police officer or other law enforcement experience that encompasses the powers of arrest can often be substituted for the degree requirement.
Qualifications and Training:
State police applicants must usually be a state resident, possess a valid state driver’s license and be a United States citizen. Becoming a state trooper often entails successfully passing a written exam, an oral interview, a physical assessment and an in-depth background check. State police may also be required to undergo a medical examination, drug test and psychological evaluation. Most state police must successfully complete training at the state police academy.
Nature of the Work:
State police must be prepared to address a variety of situations and people. They usually operate independently must recognize immediate problem areas, make responsible decisions and take the appropriate corrective action without the benefit of close supervision. State police carry a firearm and often operate in situations that are stressful or dangerous in nature. In responding to emergencies and disasters, they must be able to quickly assess the situation and determine the action that should be taken to assist those in need.
State Police Salary:
State policy salaries vary by state and years of service. Compensation can range from $24,000 during training to $150,000+ for experienced troopers in certain states.