State rebrands in an effort to recruit more troopers

Alaska needs more troopers, and public safety officials are ramping up efforts to fill the positions.

On Wednesday, Alaska State Troopers unveiled a new logo and slogan — “Guardians of the 49th” — aimed at drawing in recruits. The agency also took the rebranding efforts to the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, where on Thursday they showed off two new police vehicles.

The recruitment effort comes in the wake of a 2018 study showing a need for an increase in the trooper workforce. The study — the Detachment Patrol Staffing Study and Description of Dispatched Police Incidents — looked at the B Detachment area between 2009 and 2015, and found that the staffing level was “barely adequate” to meet minimum safety requirements. B Detachment includes part of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and portions of the Valdez-Cordova Census Area along the Richardson Highway.

The study recommended that B Detachment have a total staff of 71 — including troopers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains. That’s 26 additional troopers, or a 57.8 percent more, than the number of sworn staff in August 2017.

Department of Public Safety Communications Director Jonathon Taylor said the Department of Public Safety is considering doing a staffing study for other four detachment areas to get accurate data on each area’s need, but that the department believed the need for troopers in the other areas matched or was greater than the 57 percent increase required in the Mat-Su detachment.

Statewide, the Department of Public Safety is authorized to maintain a 300-person Alaska State Trooper workforce and 89 Wildlife Troopers, according to an Alaska Department of Public Safety Recruitment and Retention Plan Overview for 2018-2023.

Currently, the state has 337 commissioned troopers, Taylor said.

High retirement rates, lack of statewide fiscal stability and better opportunities elsewhere have all contributed to the decline in trooper numbers, according to the plan overview, which noted that the reduced number of positions and the inability to fully staff all budgeted positions have negatively impacted morale, training and overtime costs.

“The budget climate, reduced resources, inadequate wages and the inability to provide a defined benefits retirement system have placed the department as critically low staffing levels. Low staff and reduced funding is detrimental to the departments ability to effectively deliver core public safety services,” the report said.

According to the report, 33 percent of employees at ranks of trooper, corporal and sergeant and 94 percent of command staff will be eligible to retire within the next five years.

Troopers who have trained and served in Alaska are also highly marketable to other law enforcement agencies, making retention challenging, Taylor said.

“Our troopers are very sought after,” he said.

Along with the branding efforts, troopers have been doing outreach at local job fairs and online and have created a promotional video. Taylor credits the recruitment efforts to increasing the number of academy enrollees from nine last spring to 22 this fall.

Reach Erin Thompson and ethompson@peninsulaclarion.com.

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