GSP needs more troopers, recruiter says


Georgia State Patrol has been facing a shortage of troopers for a few years now. A quick Google search for “Georgia State Patrol trooper shortage” shows news articles all the way back in 2016 covering the issue. TFC Camron Spell serves as the recruiter for Troop F, which spans Emanuel and 27 other counties. He says there’s no better law enforcement agency to work for, and there’s no better time to apply to the next trooper school than right now.


For those in the community who have mentally tossed around the idea of becoming a trooper or for here who know someone who is thinking about pursuing a career with Georgia’s state law enforcement agency, here’s everything you need to know.


First off, there are a number of qualifiers and disqualifiers.


Qualifiers listed on gatrooper.com indicate potential applicants must:

• be U.S. citizens;

• have a high school diploma or a GED;

• be at least 21-years-old upon graduation from trooper school;

• be able to successfully pass the pre-employment process, which includes a physical fitness test, a polygraph, a background investigation, an oral interview, and psychological and medical evaluations;

• meet requirements for certification as a peace officer by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T. ) Council;

• have minimum vision of 20/60 uncorrected in each eye and corrected to 20/40 or better in both eyes with glasses or contact lenses;

• and must have a valid Georgia Driver’s License upon successful completion of Trooper School.


Among the list of disqualifiers, according to TFC Spell, are lying during the application process; felony convictions on an active law enforcement officer’s P.O.S.T. record; convictions of serious traffic offenses like driving under the influence, vehicular homicide, failure to stop, and so on; and possession or usage of marijuana or any other illegal drug. Georgia State Patrol will also look into poor management of personal finances such as civil suits, garnishments, and bankruptcy; however, these are not automatical disqualifiers but will warrant an investigation before a decision is made to allow or prohibit a person to advance in the application.


Prior to February 2021, one of Georgia State Patrol’s disqualifiers prevented persons with tattoos to make it through the application process. The agency’s tattoo policy was relaxed earlier this year; having tattoos is not a disqualifier any more. Potential and current state troopers still can’t have visible tattoos, but they can have body art on their lower arms and cover it in using GSP’s Class A uniform, a long-sleeve shirt and a tie, year-round.


The physical training test includes 21 push-ups in 1 minute with a rest in the up position in conclusion, 30 sit-ups in 1 minute with hands held over the ears finished with a rest in the up position, and either a 1.5-mile run within 15 minutes, 34 seconds or, for PT testers at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, a 2,000-meter row in the same amount of time. An example video can be found on GSP’s website.


Should an applicant fail the PT test, he or she can re-take the test so long as the retest is scheduled during the same trooper school.


Once an applicant has passed the PT test, he or she will move on to the polygraph, background, oral interview, psych evaluation, medical evaluation, and drug screening, in that order. Following those approvals, applicants will go on to trooper school.


The application period for the next school, the 112th Trooper School, will close August 15. The first of its kind in many years, this particular school will be an “accelerated” one for currently P.O.S.T.-certified officers or deputies with a minimum of two years of traffic enforcement experience. The school will begin January 9, 2022 with graduation set for April 8, 2022. Following graduation, these new troopers will go to their assigned posts for three months of field training there.


“This is just something they’re trying right now,” TFC Spell said. “They haven’t done a school like this in a while. We’re in serious need of troopers, and the goal is to hopefully get P.O.S.T.-certified law enforcement officers who are interested in becoming a trooper to apply because they can now complete the school and required training in less time.”


In comparison, a “normal” trooper school, TFC Spell explained, includes 36 weeks of training: 19 at the academy, followed by three months of training at three different posts, then another week at graduation. A date hasn’t been set yet for the next non-accelerated school. Presumably, the next school of that nature will be the 113th Trooper School with a start date sometime later in 2022 since Georgia State Patrol typically holds two schools per year. Look for specifics at a later date.


Regardless of which kind of school a trooper goes through, TFC Spell says there are numerous benefits once hired. Although the school is physically and mentally demanding, lodging, and necessities are taken care of during that time. Starting pay is $36,000 per year with a $10,000 raise to follow upon graduation. The 3-year, 5-year, and 7-year career marks come with $5,000 raises each. When a trooper reaches the 12-year mark, he or she is dubbed a senior trooper, which comes with an annual salary between $65,000 and $68,000.


Additionally, as state employees, troopers are provided health, dental, vision, and life insurance as well as a little retirement and 401K. These law enforcement officers are given 12 hours holiday leave and 15 days of annual leave. However, there is no overtime. Instead, troopers accumulate comp time.


The biggest perk, in the words of TFC Spell, is the overall care troopers receive from their employer, the State of Georgia.


“I want to encourage anyone who wants to go into law enforcement to go the route of Georgia State Patrol. We always have good equipment. The state is always testing the safety of our cars and gear. In terms of your uniform, the state takes care of everything except your undergarments. We’re one of, if not the highest-paid law enforcement agencies in Georgia,” he said. “I know a lot of people don’t want to do the job right now; they’re a little apprehensive, but Georgia State Patrol is the way to go in law enforcement right now. I don’t mean to discredit any other agency. I can only speak for the one I work for, and I know Georgia State Patrol takes care of its own in every way you can think of.”


He continued, noting that the shortage of troopers across the state provides an unusual sense of job security close to home. His current post in Helena, Dodge County, is working with only six troopers, three of which are in supervisory positions. In years prior, the staff there was double that. Today, Post 19 here in Emanuel, he said, is operating with the same amount of supervisors as the Helena location, plus two more troopers, for a total of eight state troopers based out of Swainsboro.


“In addition to the amount of time it takes to complete trooper school, another concern we often hear from people is they’re afraid they’ll be sent to a post that’s a considerable distance away from home. Right now, there’s a really good chance you’ll be sent to whatever post you request when you apply. If something does come up and you can’t be sent there, you’ll be sent to the next closest post so you’ll still be home every night. Everybody needs troopers everywhere, so you’re not going to be from south Georgia and assigned to a north Georgia post.”


TFC Payton Riner can attest to that statement. He got his start in law enforcement through Millen Police Department in 2013. He worked there for one year, then came home to Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office and worked three years as a deputy. During that fall, he began to have a longing to further his career, so he applied for trooper school. A few months later, he found himself moving to Forsyth to begin his training.


“The whole training process at GPSTC was not for the faint of heart. For the first two weeks, I was completely cut off from any outside communication. This was very difficult, considering that I am very close to my mom and sisters. Communication of any kind was very, very limited for the 32 weeks that I was there,” Trooper Riner said. “I am not at liberty to discuss the exact procedures that are taught, only because there is a certain level of integrity that should remain in the process. I will say that it was the hardest thing that I have ever gone through both physically and mentally. However, I also know it was the most rewarding experience ever. I wear this badge with pride. I have always told my family that when I go to my job, my purpose is to do it and do it in an honest, dignified manner, which also brings me back home to them.”


When he graduated the 102nd Trooper School in 2018, Trooper Riner requested to come back home to Post 19. He wasn’t guaranteed that spot, but at that time, it seemed others were getting placed back toward their home locations. He says he was “very blessed” in the fact that the local post needed someone. Today, he is detached to Post 21 out of Sylvania.


“This job is not for everyone. It takes dedication, loyalty, and a frame of mind that allows you to do what is right at all times. Being able to help somebody is what makes this job worth it. Although you deal with the public and know that the majority of the time people dread seeing you, knowing that you could make a positive difference in the life of one person makes it all worth it,” Trooper Riner continued. “My mama has always taught me how important it is to help others. My daddy passed away when I was six, but I have always heard how much he liked to help people as well. My sisters both work in education, so I guess you could say that it has been bred in us since we were young that putting others ahead of yourself is what life is about. If someone is considering this line of work, I would ask that you take a deep look within yourself and not let the mainstream media steer you away. Follow your heart. As Mr. Rogers always said, ‘Look for the helpers.’ I would like to think that I am in that mix—a helper.”


To apply for the 112th Trooper School, visit gatrooper.com, then click the “Apply to the 112th” icon on the top lefthand corner. Further information about Georgia State Patrol, its various troops and the locations of those, a complete breakdown of benefits, a list of frequently asked questions, and more can be found on that website as well.

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