Alaska State Troopers are having difficulty recruiting local people to become troopers. Of those that do apply, 76 percent are from the Lower 48. However, the Troopers are dedicated to raising numbers and recruiting from within.
Recruiting troopers for AST in urban areas is difficult, but getting recruits for rural areas is even more difficult. There was a spike in recruitment when the National Geographic Channel’s Alaska State Troopers TV show first aired. However, AST recruiter Sergeant Luis Nieves says the majority of those recruits were still from the lower 48. Nieves is from outside the state himself. He’s from Queens, New York but he came up in 2004 with US Coast Guard. He later joined the Alaska State Troopers and served in the Kotzebue region. Nieves says there are unfair rumors about the program.
“People assume that as soon as they become and Alaska State Trooper we send them out to a bush community where they live out of a hut and are issued a honey bucket. That’s so far from the truth. What ends up happening is people are robbing themselves of the opportunity of an Alaska State Trooper to be able to travel around the entire state and actually be able to experience the entire state.”
Nieves says he sees several reasons for low recruit numbers. Although those rumors are definitely a factor, he says the real problem is generational.
“The way kids are being raised now the generational gaps, we have new generations that aren’t really interested in law enforcement careers let alone other long term careers. It’s our obligation to try to get specifically Alaskans to become interested in being law enforcement officers again especially Alaska State Troopers.”
Physical ability and a call to action are something that recruiters are looking for. Nieves says younger generations have a spectator attitude– instead of helping someone in need, he believes young people are more likely to pull out their phones, record the problem and put it on Youtube.
Being physically fit is incredibly important as a trooper. Nieves says 80 percent of those who apply to AST fail the physical fitness requirements. However, AST has a program to help those people reapply.
“And what we’ve done now is we’ve started programs like CAMP, the Candidate Assistance Mentoring Program, we run them through the physical fitness requirements, we let them see where they’re at. And then what we do is invite local gyms so they witness what the applicants have to go through for the requirements and then provide mentorship and maybe provide some feedback and training at their local gyms.”
Nieves believes the biggest reason people inside the state aren’t applying is because there’s a misconception as to what the troopers are looking for.
“But when it comes to the career field, I think a lot of people just view it as a mystery. People think that you need to be a saint to be an Alaska State Trooper or to be in law enforcement. And we understand that people make mistakes and we understand that people have experimented with drugs or made some poor decisions in the past. Not all of those things eliminate you indefinitely they just eliminate you for a certain amount of time.”
He says what gets most people in trouble in the application process is when they try to lie or cover up any mistakes or run-ins with the law. Nieves says AST recruiters are looking for people who have learned from their mistakes and want to help others.