BURNSVILLE — The North Carolina Highway Patrol is facing a trooper shortage and is seeking men and women who are serious about protecting their fellow citizens and upholding the rule of law.
According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, there are currently 1,600 state troopers who patrol nearly 80,000 miles of highway across the state, and these roads are increasingly being patrolled by fewer troopers.
First Sgt. Joshua Dowdle with Highway Patrol District G1 (Avery, Mitchell, Yancey and Madison counties) says that the agency is short by approximately 200 troopers, with 170 being road troopers, while the rest of the vacancies go up through the ranks.
“If you look around, most law enforcement agencies across the nation are experiencing difficulties recruiting and retaining [officers],” Dowdle said. “A lot of it is that there is more money in the private sector. It is something we have fought for years.”
Upon starting training to become a NCSHP trooper, officers start out at $37,323 per year before being bumped up to $46,228 after the completion of training. Higher ranking officers can earn up to $64,000 annually. Officers receive state employee benefits like paid holidays, health care, educational assistance and military leave, among others.
Dowdle says that the benefits are not the sole reason why someone should want to joining the Highway Patrol.
“If you are someone who is thinking about going into law enforcement, the Highway Patrol has a lot of history and tradition behind us. It used to be difficult to become a part of. We didn’t use to have openings, and it is an honor to be part of the Highway Patrol,” Dowdle added.
“Part of the drive for me, when I was young, was to be part of that tradition: black and silver car, the uniforms. We do a lot as far as getting out here and helping protect everyday people,” Dowdle noted. “We’re the first out in national disasters. We take pride in being the one organization, that no matter where you are in the state, you can count on the Highway Patrol to show up and help out.”
Trainees receive pay the moment they step on campus. Those who have law enforcement experience attend trooper training school for 12 weeks, while completely new cadets attend for 27 weeks. All expenses are paid for, and cadets only need a high school diploma or GED to apply.
“It’s a very paramilitary training school,” Dowdle said. “It’s like boot camp. First thing in the morning is physical fitness, then you’re in class and in some type of training for the rest of the day. Sometimes [you’re at] the firing range, sometimes you’re at the driving track and sometimes you’re in the gym learning defensive training.”
Applicants must be between the ages of 21 to 39 to begin training. Aside from having a clean criminal history and driving record, trainees should have a willingness and fortitude to not only complete training but to also serve the public.
“Our school is very demanding and it has to be somebody who is willing to commit. This has to be what someone knows they want to do,” Dowdle explained.
Sgt. Dowdle also says that he has seen support from the public for officers in uniform, and that respect and honor that comes with the job is not always present in other careers.
“I was eating supper this weekend and someone paid for my supper, unbeknownst to me. That happens more than people know,” Dowdle said.