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Too many recruits can't pass trooper fitness test


Retirements have been depleting the ranks of the Washington State Patrol. Now, the patrol finds itself scrambling to hire an extra 60 troopers this year. 

It’s not as easy as you might think to hire a trooper, especially since applicants are failing the physical exam.

The process is so cumbersome that the Washington State Patrol typically does it only once a year or every two years. They hire in batches.

Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins says, lately, they’ve been losing a lot of otherwise qualified recruits during the physical exam:

"We are seeing young people coming to us really not being able to do a reasonable number of sit-ups, pushups, and run a mile-and-a-half, and they are otherwise great potential candidates."

In the past, even when they gave candidates extra time to prepare, a lot couldn’t (or wouldn’t) get in shape.

Background stumble

Another top reason for dropping out: Many can’t pass the background check. (You can get in with a misdemeanor in your past, but not if you lie about it, says Calkins.)

To get 60 qualified Cadets, a typical number for a Basic Training Academy, the WSP needs to test and screen more than 1,000 applicants.

The patrol received an extra $5 million from the state legislature to run one extra round of hiring and training this year.  The screening alone is a six-month process, so there's a big rush to get testing started in the next few weeks.

The funding comes from a variety of higher motor vehicle-related fees, such as on license plates and vehicle title transfers, approved as part of House Bill-2660.

Keith Seinfeld is a former KNKX/KPLU reporter who covered health, science and the environment over his 17 years with the station. He also served as assistant news director. Prior to KLPU, he was a staff reporter at The Seattle Times and The News Tribune in Tacoma and a freelance writer-producer. His work has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.