In the Spotlight

News & Features
Your Voice
DocumentJoin the conversation with other MPR listeners in the News Forum.

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
Minnesota's future troopers
Larger view
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty shakes hands with the next crop of State Patrol troopers. Governor Pawlenty says more recruits need to be trained, but the state doesn't have enough money right now. (MPR Photo/Tim Post)
If you want to become a State Patrol trooper in Minnesota, there's only one way. Every recruit goes through intense training at Camp Ripley north of Little Falls. The State Patrol's training academy lasts 16 weeks and is followed by months of extra on the job training. The State Patrol wants to train more recruits to fill open trooper positions. But in these tight budget times, that's not likely to happen.

Camp Ripley, Minn. — On a crisp spring morning at Camp Ripley in central Minnesota, 19 State Patrol recruits crowd around their instructor in a parking lot. The recruits are about to practice a traffic stop.

Minnesota State Patrol Trooper Jason Bartell looks on. Bartell went through this training five years ago when he joined the force.

Larger view
Image Practice ticket

"Basically it's a mock traffic stop dealing with criminal interdiction," Bartell says. "This brings it all together and puts it into practical use."

This is one of the first chances the recruits get, to try out what they've learned. And for now, this role playing is as realistic as it gets.

Lt. Bob Myerson, one of the academy's instructors, says this training sharpens the recruits' senses.

"We want them to be keenly aware of everything going on. We are trying to develop their ability to talk to people and observe 360 degrees around them," Myerson says.

Practicing traffic stops is one part of the State Patrol's 16-week training school. Recruits will also master the use of fire arms. They'll learn how to control their cars in high speed chases. And how to spot and test drunk drivers.

Larger view
Image Kristina Krueger

The training also teaches discipline with physical requirements similar to bootcamp. It's tough training for 27-year old recruit Kristina Krueger. Krueger says she's gained more confidence here than she got from a four-year criminal justice degree, and even her time as a cop in Grand Meadow.

"It's nothing that anybody could ever describe to you. It's something you have to experience for yourself to know how hard it is and know what everybody in the state patrol has gone through," Krueger says.

After the recruits graduate from training school, they'll spend several months on the road with a veteran trooper. When they head out on their own , they can expect to be very busy. State Patrol officials say while the number of licensed drivers has increased by 50 percent over the past 20 years, the number of troopers has stayed the same. And those troopers spend much of their time responding to accidents, instead of chasing speeding drivers.

Lt. Sherri Frandrup, who coordinates trooper training at Camp Ripley, says they're ready to train as many troopers as the state needs if they get the funding.

Larger view
Image Teaching the tricks of the road

"If it becomes a priority to the legislators, to the motoring public, to the tax payers, to the citizens of Minnesota to have their highways a bit safer. (If) they give us the opportunity to give them more troopers, I would be happy to do it," Frandrup says.

On a recent visit with recruits at the academy, Governor Tim Pawlenty admitted the state needs to train more troopers. The problem, Pawlenty says, is money.

"I'm hoping over time we can find the money to increase our highway patrol compliment in Minnesota. We have one of the lowest per capital compliments in the country and it needs to be increased. At a minimum we need to keep up with the attrition and the retirements," Pawlenty says.

Keeping up is going to be hard. The state has only given the State Patrol enough money to train 19 new troopers this year. But that won't fill the patrol's needs. The State Patrol says they have at least 45 open trooper positions across the state right now. They say Minnesota drivers face more on danger on the roads when the State Patrol isn't at full strength.

Respond to this story
News Headlines
Related Subjects