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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
As a recruiter for the Alaska State Troopers, I met some interesting folks. Some were young, some were merely young at heart. Some liked to talk, while others were pretty quiet. They came to us from different backgrounds, with different personalities, and often had different dreams and aspirations. By and large, however, the applicants I came in contact with were a group of ambitious, energetic folks with a heart to serve the public and a desire for something more than just a job. They knew that policing the Last Frontier takes a different kind of cop. It takes an Alaska State Trooper.
If you ask the general public what characteristics contribute to a good Alaska State Trooper, you may hear a variety of things, not all of which are accurate. Some might say that an ideal applicant knows martial arts or has skill with firearms. You might hear that they should have a criminal justice degree, or perhaps military experience. You might be surprised to learn, however, that while many of these things demonstrate how much an applicant has prepared for a career with our agency, they don’t necessarily show who will make a great trooper. Yes, we love to hire military veterans, but we also hire schoolteachers. We hire construction workers. We hire salesmen, business professionals, tradesmen, and so many others.
Our nation is at a crossroads right now. Across this country, many are reexamining the relationship between police and the people we serve. The public has high standards for who we hire, how we train them, and how we keep them healthy—both physically and mentally. We have those high standards as well. We’re not looking for people who are perfect, because they don’t exist. We’re not looking for people who have all the answers, because they don’t exist, either. So what are we looking for?
Our needs are simple: We want honest, hardworking people with a heart for public service and good communication skills. Most of what an Alaska State Trooper does is communicate. We talk to people, conduct an investigation, then document those efforts in a police report. We can teach new troopers defensive tactics, firearms skills, and physical fitness at the Department of Public Safety Training Academy in Sitka, Alaska. What we cannot teach them is how to tell the truth. How to do the right thing when nobody is looking. How to communicate sincerely with witnesses or victims who may be suffering through the worst day of their lives. How to listen. Or how to care. We cannot teach patience, or kindness, or how to work really hard when they are uncomfortable, tired, or far from home. They either have these abilities or they do not
So what does it take to be an Alaska State Trooper? It takes a rare individual, who may look very different from the folks you see on police television shows or movies. It takes someone who may not know how to do this job but has what it takes to learn this job. That person might be someone you know.
Or that person might be you.
Captain David Willson
Alaska State Troopers
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