State Police: Keeping the Highways Safe
State troopers do much more than hide behind highways signs waiting to swoop down on speeders. In fact, the notion that they lurk all day with the idea of filling their quota of traffic stops is a myth. State police officers often find themselves in great danger while helping save lives and maintain order. In California, for example, state police officers offer capitol building security and protect the governor.
How Do They Spend Their Days and Nights on Patrol?
Varying in different states and agencies, troopers tend to work 8-hour shifts, rotating around the clock. An officer may work nights for a while, then rotate to days. Not all of their time is logged in a patrol car or on a motorcycle. Like professionals in other forms of police work, troopers begin their shifts with intelligence meetings, learning about the issues that arose in the previous eight hours and receiving duty orders for the day. Alerts can include reports of child abductions, car thefts, and ongoing crash or incident investigations.
During an active shift, an officer might perform one or more of the following duties:
- Respond to emergency calls
- Perform investigations
- Enforce commercial vehicle regulations
- Assist other law enforcement agencies
- Monitor traffic and conditions of the roads
- Operate a checkpoint for drunken drivers
- Provide escorts for dignitaries or funerals
- Assist fire and rescue operations
- Testify at traffic court proceedings
- Direct traffic at hazardous accident or construction sites
- Provide public education to programs in the community on safety and security issues
Completing Your Law Enforcement Training
Every state in the union, with the exception of Hawaii, has a highway patrol. To become an officer, you'll need to pass a criminal background check, psychological testing, a drug test, and hold a clean driver's license. Most states require candidates to be U.S. citizens between the ages of 21 and 35.
Some states allow high school graduates to train for the job; others require candidates to complete a formal law enforcement training program. Still others desire that potential state troopers have a criminal justice degree from an accredited college or university. Having a formal education in criminal justice can be an asset when you prepare to take the civil service examination.
In addition to learning federal and state highway codes, many training programs offer courses in high-speed and defensive driving, weapons training, first aid, investigation techniques, hazardous materials handling, and arrest procedure.
Advancing Your Police Career
Some candidates, and even already-hired officers, use online criminal justice programs to deepen their knowledge and prepare for advancement in the ranks. Education can also be a ticket to more specialized work, such as training in homeland security or criminal psychology. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, state troopers earned a median salary of $49,630 in 2007, with the top pay surpassing $75,650.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Police and Detectives
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers