State Police Agencies (page 3)
Forty-nine states have some type of state police agency; only Hawaii does not. It is ironic that one of the longest running police series on television was also one of the least accurate. From 1968 to 1980, viewers of Hawaii Five-0 followed the exploits of an elite state police unit that targeted organized crime. Although the show was filmed entirely in Hawaii, the state police unit was fictional.
The other 49 states all have a state police agency, but not all such agencies are the same. There are two basic types of state police agencies—fullservice and highway patrol agencies. In these agencies, most officers (generally called troopers in state policing) work primarily in uniform, although both types of agencies have some plainclothes assignments. The third type of state police agency is a state investigative agency in which all officers are assigned to work out of uniform. While the name of the agency often makes plain the jurisdiction of its officers, the name alone may not signify the types of job opportunities that exist.
As of 2004, state police agencies employed about 58,000 full-time sworn personnel, almost 70% of whom were troopers (the entry-level rank). Slightly over 10% were investigators and the remaining almost 20% were supervisory officers. These figures do not include state investigative agencies, but are based solely on either full-service or highway patrol agencies.
Generally, state police agencies have lower percentages of minority men and all women than local police departments and sheriffs' offices. The reasons are complex; some have to do with these groups, particularly women, having a shorter history in this area of law enforcement. Some women are also discouraged by the emphasis on physical skills and fitness. Another reason seems to be the residential training that is conducted primarily in rural portions of the state.
In recent years, state police agencies have made considerable efforts to increase their numbers of women and minority candidates. They are recruiting actively on college campuses, featuring women and minority males on their recruitment teams and on their websites, and generally trying to create a more inviting culture at their academies without diluting their training routines.
Most state police agencies are categorized as full-service agencies. The largest agencies in this category are also among the oldest, including (in order of size) New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Illinois. Virginia and Michigan also have state police agencies that employ more than 1,000 officers.
The reason these agencies are termed full-service is straightforward. They have many duties in addition to patrol. They conduct investigations for their own departments and, often, for small, rural police agencies that lack the technical skills for complex investigations. Full-service agencies also maintain their state's criminal records system (similar to the federal Uniformed Crime Reporting Program [UCR] maintained by the FBI), and operate a forensic lab for their own use and use by departments that do not maintain their own labs. In a number of states, though, the crime lab is operated by the state's investigative agency rather than by the uniformed agency.
This is one example of why it is important to learn the range of duties of the agency you are applying to. Particularly at a time when forensics has become one of the fastest-growing college major fields of study, if this is your particular passion it is important for you to understand not only what the jobs in crime labs entail but also which agencies in your area are responsible for providing forensic or crime scene services.
Full-service agencies also generally have canine, emergency, tactical, and airborne units, to name just a few, that are sometimes scattered throughout the state, for use by the agency; they can be requested by smaller agencies whenever their deployment would be appropriate. These agencies generally operate a police academy primarily for their own recruits but often open supervisory, management, and special skills courses to other departments. The existence of an agency academy means that training assignments may be available at some point in your career.
In full-service agencies, many state troopers also have an opportunity to function like local police officers because these state agencies provide all patrol and investigative services for many unincorporated areas and respond to calls for assistance just as local police do. Some also provide contract policing to a number of small communities. Contract policing, which is also done by some sheriffs' offices, means that a community pays a state police or sheriff's office to assign officers to the community to function as its local police force. In some rural areas, a resident trooper or deputy sheriff may be the only law enforcement officer in the area, functioning not only as the area's police officer but in effect as its chief of police.
In addition, once you are employed by a full-service agency, you will have opportunities to become a specialist in a number of regulatory areas, because in addition to varied patrol assignments, full-service agencies have oversight of numerous state licensing requirements. Some of these include licensing of special jurisdiction police and licensing of professions for which states have mandated fingerprinting or licensing to practice. Depending on the individual states, this might include hairdressing and barbering, racehorse ownership or employment as a jockey, ownership of or employment in an establishment that sells alcohol, and various gambling- and/or lotteryrelated employment. Obviously, the more areas for which a state police agency is responsible, the greater the opportunities officers have of developing expertise in specialized enforcement fields.
Highway Patrol Agencies
Highway patrol agencies, as their name indicates, have a narrower range of duties than full-service agencies. Although they may have responsibilities other than simply patrol of the state's roadways and accident investigation, their mandates are not as far-reaching as those of the full-service agencies. Most, like full-service agencies, maintain their own training facilities.
Harking back to their histories as parts of public works or motor vehicle licensing departments, they sometimes remain responsible for oversight of highway construction and truck weigh stations on highways, and they may remain involved with testing and licensing of individual drivers, especially those seeking truck, bus, or motorcycle licenses. Probably the best known of these agencies is the California Highway Patrol (CHP), pronounced "CHiPs," partially due to a television show of that name that aired from 1977 to 1983. Among the others are the Florida, North and South Carolina, and Ohio highway patrols
Indicating how confusing designations in policing can be, despite its more limited jurisdiction than a full-service state police organization, CHP, which was formed in 1929, is the largest state police agency in the nation; of its almost 10,000 employees, about 7,000 are sworn police officers. An agency's size is often not directly related to its salary scale. The NYPD is more than twice as large as the next largest municipal police department but its salary is not among the highest, yet a study in 2008 determined that CHP officers have the highest maximum base pay of all state patrol officers in the nation, including a generous benefits package. The pay is more closely aligned with California police officers and sheriffs' deputies, in part because CHP salaries are determined in conjunction with the average pay rates of five other California law enforcement agencies—the Los Angeles police and sheriffs' departments, and the San Diego, San Francisco, and Oakland police departments. CHP has been actively recruiting women for a number of years. Its webpage contains detailed information on physical agility requirements, the nature of the job itself, and interviews with highranking women in the department.
The example of CHP is meant to alert you to many things you must consider as part of a career in state policing. It is very important to learn the roles and responsibilities of the agencies you are considering joining. If your goals tend toward the social service aspects of policing, a highway patrol agency whose primary function is traffic enforcement and accident investigation might not be a good career fit for you. But you should also not make assumptions about salaries and benefits based on an agency's jurisdiction. Some highway patrol agencies, despite possibly providing fewer career options, may provide salaries and benefits comparable to or better than fullservice agencies.
Because physical agility plays a much larger role in the hiring and training of state police officers than of most municipal police officers, state police agencies are likely to provide details of their physical requirements on their websites. Candidates interested in this area of policing, particularly those who are not physically fit or do not desire to remain in top physical condition throughout their careers, should review the minimum requirements carefully to determine whether they are willing to make a commitment to the required level of fitness for the next 20 or 25 years.
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