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At the MSP Training Academy, Focus is on Helping Recruits Obtain Knowledge and Skills for Modern-day Policing

The Michigan State Police has updated its trooper recruit school with a new training model that promotes adult learning, encourages wholistic leadership skills like communication and decision-making, and offers recruits more personalized support. The changes reflect a broader commitment the department has made to modern policing, which requires skills that go beyond those of traditional law enforcement.

Photo of trooper recruits in the Training Academy academy

One of the goals of the new teaching structure is to move away from the intimidating nature of police training to create a culture that encourages open dialogue and conversational learning. 

“We want to employ open communication from day one to model the behavior we expect to see in our troopers and to make sure our recruits fully understand and retain the concepts they are learning,” said F/Lt. Tim Olson, commander of the Recruit Training Section within the Training Division. “A training environment in which the staff direct your every move is actually easier than the one we have now, in which we allow the recruits to have the freedom and responsibility to perform some self-directed work.”

Potential recruits even have an opportunity to preview academy courses prior to starting the academy during a new program known as Applicant Preparation Sessions, which are offered for some of the more challenging instructional areas like water safety, legal, and physical training. Some applicants travel up to two hours to attend these voluntary preparatory sessions, emphasizing the value they see in it.

Photo of female recruits in room during inspection

Once accepted to the 20-week residential academy, trooper recruits receive both academic and physical skills training from MSP instructors.  Broken up into four training phases, as the recruits progress through the phases, they will receive more freedom and responsibility, teaching them improved decision-making abilities, particularly while under stress.  

In making these training modifications, Training Division staff also recognized a need for more support with knowledge retention. To address this need, the MSP adjusted its testing model and started offering more supports, like extended free time, where students have access to personalized tutoring with MSP personnel. 

“We compared our teaching models with best practices to make sure we’re delivering the strongest training for recruits to grasp and retain concepts far beyond their time at the academy,” said Lt. Col. Michael Krumm, commander of the MSP’s Professional Development Bureau, which includes the department’s Training Division. “We’re putting more emphasis on evaluating a student’s knowledge base at various points during the academy, which allows us to offer them personalized resources to help them succeed.” 

The agency also extended after-hours support for physical skills practice, like swimming and firearm range, in addition to adjusting the overall length of the program from 26 weeks to 20 weeks and requiring recruits to return for three weeks of continuing education within two years of graduation.

Photo of recruits in the gym working out

“This isn’t about shortening our training program or making it easier,” added F/Lieutenant Olson. “These modifications allow our newest troopers an opportunity to connect their academy training with real experience in the field, which also allows us to identify and make corrections faster, if needed.” 

Changes to how instructors are trained were also made, through a newly introduced three-year progressive learning program for temporary training staff. 

“We used to bring in MSP personnel to teach one recruit class at a time, which meant there was little consistency between schools,” said F/Lieutenant Olson. “We now ask temporary staff to commit to a three-year assignment, which provides us with a cadre of instructors who are fully engaged with the modern atmosphere and learning styles we’re adapting to, and it allows us to spend time developing the teaching skills of our instructors.” 

The department continues to research further opportunities for enhancement and is currently conducting a study led by MSP’s Dr. Juli Liebler to better understand the recruit academy experience directly from recruits themselves.

“We are conducting short voluntary surveys weekly and during critical points of training to gauge how our training processes, practices and lessons are perceived,” said Dr. Liebler. “Having this data ensures we are supporting our recruits the best we can, and in the future the findings will inform our recruiting and hiring approaches.”

Photo of recruit getting equipment

After graduation, probationary troopers spend 17 weeks in the Field Training Officer (FTO) program, applying their academy learning to real-life experiences at MSP posts under the guidance of an FTO. Like academy training, the FTO program has been revised to incorporate modern adult learning methods that will better support our members and lead to the development of well-rounded troopers who are positively motivated and highly trained.  

Photo of trooper recruit in doorway during inspection

The MSP is continuously hiring for upcoming trooper recruit schools. Learn more or apply at