WOOSTER There’s more to being a state trooper than sitting at a highway crossover and writing speeding tickets.
Like other public service positions, people are drawn to law enforcement to help other people. Lt. Todd Roberts, commander at the Wooster post of the Ohio Highway Patrol, said that’s what drove him to become a state trooper.
“I’ve always been the type of person when something’s going on I want to be there to help,” he said. “That’s what drives most people to public service is to help people. You’re the first on scene when things go wrong.”
Roberts has been a trooper for nearly 20 years. Every day is different, he said, and that’s another reason he enjoys what he does.
About 1,600 state troopers are assigned to posts across Ohio. The number is down by about 300. The nationwide workforce shortage that has affected numerous industries also has touched the Ohio State Highway Patrol. In this case, recent retirements within the same time frame have left positions open, and people’s perception of the job may deter applicants. Roberts is working to help spread the word about benefits to becoming a state trooper or emergency dispatcher, and to educate people about the process and options toward a fulfilling career.
“When people think of the highway patrol, they think of us sitting in a crossover writing speeding tickets,” Roberts said. “We go a lot farther than speeding tickets.”
To apply to become a state trooper, no law enforcement background is required.
Another plus is that you don’t need to pay for training. The agency will pay you.
Want to apply?
Visit statepatrol.ohio.gov/ to learn more about the job. Visit statepatrol.ohio.gov/recruit/index.aspx and select “Apply to be a Trooper” to go straight to an application. Call 1-866-TROOPER or email ADRecruit@dps.ohio.gov. Roberts said he welcomes questions at the Wooster post and Trooper Joshua Smith is listed on the website as a contact for Wayne County.
Here are minimum qualifications each applicant must fulfill:
* Must be 20-34.
* Must be a U.S. citizen and have a valid driver’s license (a resident of Ohio upon commission and have a valid Ohio driver’s license upon commission from Academy).
* Must have a high school diploma or GED certificate.
What if you want to go to college first? And what do you do if you just graduated from high school and you’re too young to apply?
The OSHP has programs to help with the transition from high school and college into the training academy.
Roberts said positions are open for troopers and dispatchers. Dispatchers can be hired at age 18 and older.
For those fresh out of high school, there are two different programs offered for aspiring state troopers:
* Cadet dispatcher – At 18, an individual can apply to go through the hiring process and undergo requirements such as background checks and polygraphs and then be hired as a dispatcher. This job requires a 60-day training period, being paired up with another dispatcher at the beginning and then is a 40-hour per week job with full-time benefits. Once they turn 21, they can roll into an academy class to become a trooper.
* Cadet intern – Individuals attending college classes to work toward any major can work with the Ohio Highway Patrol at the same time learning the ropes around their class schedule and getting paid. Once they graduate from their college or university they can enroll in the next academy class. Roberts said the patrol welcomes a variety of majors and backgrounds because there are so many different positions within the OSHP.
Training and advancing takes work and dedication, but the career is meaningful and rewarding.
Once selected as a State Patrol Cadet, individuals report to the OSHP Academy in Columbus and live at the Academy for about six months in a paramilitary style environment. Once classroom training is successfully completed, cadets graduate to the rank of Trooper and report to their first patrol post and begin a 12-week on-the-job training period with a Field Training Officer. Troopers return to the Academy for additional training in a specialized area for one week, then return to their post assignment to begin their careers as troopers. The OSHP pays for cadets’ certifications and equipment, and uniforms and gear are provided.
“We hire you and then we put you through six months of training that allows you to get all the certification and we pay you for that entire time,” Roberts said.
Roberts said he enjoys the freedom in his job. The patrol works to assign troopers at posts so they aren’t working too far from home and they have an option to specialize in a variety of different positions.
“There’s a lot of benefits we have that people don’t realize,” Roberts said.
Troopers are responsible for enforcing traffic and criminal laws on public roadways and state-owned property in Ohio. The patrol is responsible for vehicle inspections, school bus inspections, commercial vehicle weight stations, conducting aircraft and vehicle crash investigations, and providing security for state facilities. Troopers also aid in security of state institutions and may be called to duty to assist during a civil disturbance or riot.
After two years of field experience, troopers can transfer to areas including aircraft pilot, academy instructor, canine handler/criminal patrol, criminal investigator, crash reconstructionist, executive protection, motor vehicle inspector, polygraph examiner, recruiter and special response team.
Ohio Highway Patrol played a big part in the Republican National Convention.
“You get the experience of still being a part of the big huge events because we’re a state agency, but with a local feel on the day-to-day basis,” he said.
Typically, troopers work a standard 40-hour week and have holidays, personal days, sick leave days, vacation, retirement, health insurance and other benefits.
The Highway Patrol is a 24/7 operation. As expected, although they try to work around it as much as possible, drawbacks include missing family events and special occasions, and the work also can be dangerous.
“That’s a given especially in today’s society,” Roberts said. “A lot of different things going on. We train all the time. We try to provide everybody with the skills and abilities to handle those dangerous situations as best as possible.”
Roberts said in his experience with working in the Wayne County area, he still feels appreciated by the general public as a law enforcement officer and troopers are proud of the work they do.
“In general, especially in this area, we’re still appreciated,” he said. “People still tell us that. People are still happy to see you. They understand the job we’re doing is to try to make things better for them.”
At the Wooster post, Roberts works with 15 troopers, four sergeants and seven dispatchers. Many are from Wayne and Holmes counties, he said.
“A lot of the people who work for us knew they wanted to be in law enforcement,” Roberts said, “and It’s always nice to have those people who want to do the job. We’re hoping to fill positions and get staff back up.”