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Washington State Patrol offers hiring bonuses, accepts lateral transfers amidst recruitment struggles

A Washington State Patrol Officer operates a drone.
Courtesy of the Washington State Patrol
A Washington State Patrol Officer operates a drone.

Facing a shortage of trooper candidates, the Washington State Patrol is offering hiring bonuses and accepting laterals from other law enforcement agencies for the first time in its history.

Chris Loftis, director of communications for the Washington State Patrol, said there is roughly 250 out of 1,100 positions vacant. He said a significant segment of the agency’s workforce will reach retirement eligibility in the next five years, which will further exacerbate the staffing crisis.

“It’s significant, and before it gets to the point where it’s really impacting our ability to provide the quality of services that we're known for, and that the state needs, we've got to try something different,” Loftis said.

The State Patrol was one of a few agencies in the state that lost workers after the COVID vaccine mandate. Loftis said some officers have also left citing the political climate around law enforcement. That’s also been a challenge in recruiting as well.

It’s also not the only agency that’s struggled to hire. Both the city of Spokane and the Spokane County have authorized hiring bonuses for laterals and new trainees to boost struggling recruitment efforts.

He said the agency is now looking at hiring officers who have already completed training at a law enforcement academy, and finished their probationary period. The agency has budgeted for 40 lateral hires. It’s also set aside funds for hiring bonuses, new cadets are eligible for $10,000 and laterals are eligible for $20,000.

“The bottom line though is that we've got to get qualified folks, it doesn't matter who you are, where you are, what your background is,” Loftis said, “Are you qualified, do you have the competence, and the character and the courage that you need to be a successful member of the State Patrol. And if we can find those folks, we're going to bring them in because we sure need them.”

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.