Part I: Lansing Michigan State Police training academy ushers in latest wave of recruits for 142nd school

59 recruits train in hopes to graduate in November
Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 11:57 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - You see them on every highway across Michigan: blue or black Michigan State Police cruisers. They’re ready to respond to emergencies or crimes at a moment’s notice.

That kind of dedication begins from day one, according to the leadership behind the MSP, starting at the Lansing Training Academy.

TV6′s Cody Boyer embedded himself into the ranks of the newest recruits, taking a deep dive into what it means to become a trooper. Both as a recruit and enduring changing times.

It’s been a familiar sight to MSP Public Information Officer Derrick Carroll for the past 27 years, watching hundreds of civilians sculpting their lifestyles into that of a trooper.

“It’s not just putting on the uniform one day and just serving the public. There’s a lot behind-the-scenes that it takes, becoming a Michigan State Police trooper,” said Carrol.

For 20 weeks every day, an aspiring Michigan State Police trooper starts their morning with nearly an hour and a half of intensive physical training or P.T.

“This is very regimented,” Carroll said. “They have a system.”

Like everyone else in the blue uniform, he started here, too.

“From the time you decide, ‘Hey, I think I want to be a Michigan State Police trooper.’ Just preparing to get this far, just to get to the academy is a process,” Carroll said. “Now you gotta get through the academy and then the field training officer program.”

That’s step two: 17 additional weeks in the field at the post-location of their choice. To these recruits, that’s a future thought.

Carroll says these early steps matter just as much, with each exercise focusing on more than just physical fitness.

“You learn all of the laws of Michigan,” Carroll said. “You’ve got to be prepared to make these split-second decisions; what am I going to do? Is this illegal? Is this a case that someone can be arrested for? Along with interacting with the public.”

First Lieutenant Michael Shaw has been in the MSP’s service for as long as Carroll.

“I’ve been in for 27 years and walking into this room right here still gives me the heebie-jeebies because this is where we worked out every day,” Shaw said.

Both say they’ve noticed the same things: the importance of funding and the difficulty to keep recruits enrolled.

“Recruiting has been hard,” Shaw said. “It’s been hard for everybody. We went through a lot of different social movements and things that changed people’s idea of what policing was. Even the words ‘law enforcement’ that got adopted by the media, we are so much more than that and we do so much more, from community service to mental health.”

As both experienced troopers note, recruitment has started to drop.

According to the MSP’s records, this fall’s class is slightly larger than the last with 50 troopers graduating in May.

Looking back five years prior, though that’s sliced in half, with the graduating class of November ‘17 sending nearly 130 troopers into the next phase.

“We want to have 2,000 enlisted troopers in our ranks,” Shaw said. “We are about 100 short right now but we also have retirees that happen every year. Not only do we have to get new members to come in and make up that gap, we also have to make up for those retiree gaps, as well.”

This being the 142nd training school here, there are about 59 candidates doing all sorts of P.T. exercises for about an hour to an hour and a half every day. Candidates do exercises from weight-lifting to stretches to runs through the hallways.

To put organizing such an academy into perspective, Shaw says 389 troopers graduated from the recruit training school in 2019.

This year, the 59 here hope to add to that total, having to first pass physical training, dorm inspections and the police cruiser training course at the end of the 20 weeks.

Meanwhile, the state is already preparing future academies, each planned three years in advance, with the 2023 Michigan budget providing $9.2 million starting this month to graduate another 50 trooper hopefuls.

“It’s all budget-driven,” Carroll said. “The governor and the legislature have been very good to us. They’ve been running these recruit schools. We’ve been having a lot of attrition. We’ve had a lot of people retiring or going to other positions so we’re trying to backfill.”

The next two recruit schools are planned for January and June 2023.

Each school is pass or fail.

You fail, you must start over.

As each trooper says, whether the task assigned is road patrol or dive team, recruits must be able to do each. That starts on the Lansing academy P.T. floor.

“It’s really good to see young people stepping up, wanting to put on the badge, put on the uniform and go out there and serve the public because while it is a demanding job, it is also a very, very rewarding job,” Carroll said.