The Herald Bulletin

October 18, 2011

State police turn to social media to recruit troopers

By Maureen Hayden
CNHI Statehouse Bureau

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana state workforce has dropped to its lowest level in nearly 20 years, but there is one agency that’s out recruiting new hires: the Indiana State Police.

The state’s law enforcement agency is recruiting new candidates — and using social media to do it — in anticipation of 100 trooper positions expected to open up over the next year.

As part of the recruiting effort kicked off last week, state police are using Facebook and Twitter to give a behind-the-scenes look at the rigorous training that state police candidates must go through before they’re sworn in.

“We hope to let people know what they can expect,” Indiana State Police Sgt. Dave Bursten said. “They’ll be some people who thought they could handle it, who’ll decide they can’t. And some people who never thought about being a state trooper, who’ll realize this is exactly what they want to do.”

The ISP is posting weekly updates of the current class of recruits that are undergoing 24 weeks of paramilitary training at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. About 20 percent of those currents recruits will quit or flunk out because they can’t keep up with the academic or physical demands, Bursten said.

“For people who don’t have a military background, this is like giving them a window into what to expect,” he said.

State police are also hoping that using social media will help them attract a wide range of eligible candidates, between ages 21 and 40,  who may also help to diversify the state police force. They’re hoping to attract more African-American and Hispanic candidates, as well as more women.

“We’re always working to have an agency that’s representative of the people we serve,” Bursten said.

The push for new recruits comes at a time when state police anticipate an uptick in retirements soon. Bursten said that three years ago, about half the officers in the agency were eligible for retirment, having served 25 years or more.

Bursten said the agency wants to keep at full force of 1,334 troopers; that’s 200 more than were on the force in 2005 when Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels took office.

Daniels has reduced the overall number of state employees from about 35,000 when he took office down to about 28,000 currently. But he also authorized the state police to build back up their numbers to full strength.

Maureen Hayden is Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI Indiana newspapers. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.