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Trooper Recruits Near Halfway Mark of Revamped School Focused on Long-Term Learning

A hallmark of the Michigan State Police is the training provided to our troopers.

“From day one, week one, it’s a challenge,” said Capt. James Grady, commander of the Michigan State Police Training Division. “Our recruits know they’re going to work hard and learn so much, but the intensity of the training can be a shock.”

In recent years, trooper recruit schools ran upwards of 24 weeks; one even reached 26 weeks when holidays were factored in.

“What we often heard from the men and women who voluntarily resigned from recruit school was that they were away from their family and homelife for too long. In today’s competitive employment environment, in order to keep quality candidates, we needed to figure out how we could make adjustments without sacrificing the quality of our education and training,” said Captain Grady.

To address this challenge, the Training Division reworked how recruits are taught and they developed a new staff structure to support it.

Starting with the 142nd Trooper Recruit School, which began on June 26, trooper recruits now spend 20 weeks at the department’s residential academy with an additional 15 in-service training days scheduled throughout their first two years of employment. These in-service training days allow probationary troopers to continue learning and also provide an opportunity for correction early in their career, if needed.

“There’s so much information to absorb during recruit school and policing is new to some,” said Dr. Juli Liebler, Ph.D., deputy bureau director of the Professional Development Bureau. “By shifting to a long-term learning model, we were able to reduce the amount of learning in the beginning by spreading it over the first two years of employment.”

For staffing, four sergeants and 12 troopers now serve as primary instructors at the MSP Training Academy instead of having field members temporarily assigned as instructors for extended periods of time, which could be a daunting time commitment for them. Each trooper instructor has a three-year assignment, which also provides consistency when it comes to the advanced training that occurs after recruit school.

“This model has shown to be effective,” said Dr. Liebler. “Within all disciplines, there are great ideas focusing on lessons plans, developing materials and learning how best to teach. The MSP’s Organizational Development Division and Training Division deserve credit for their ingenuity for reimagining the department’s training model. They are inspired to provide the best learning education which makes our careers desirable and should help with retention of employees.”

Faced with continuing attrition due to retirements, hiring for troopers and other positions within the department is ongoing. A commitment from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the legislature ensures funding is consistently available to hold trooper recruit schools and to provide important continuing education to department members.

Since 2019, the MSP has graduated 389 troopers. When the Fiscal Year 2023 budget begins on Oct. 1, there will be $9.2 million for another recruit school to graduate 50 new troopers, as well as $3 million to support professional development and training for all department members.

“Career-long learning for our members has never been more important than in today’s policing environment, and we are excited to see how this new program progresses,” said Captain Grady. “We believe it gives our probationary troopers ample time to apply their learning in the real world and to gain insights from senior troopers in the field before they come back to build on their skills and principles, which will ensure we are providing the highest standard of policing for the residents of Michigan.”

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