78 State Troopers Join The Ranks

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There are about 890 state troopers serving across the Michigan, but Friday the group became 78 troopers stronger. The new troopers have one big advantage as they start patrolling, they've experienced a new, more sophisticated training program. It's what the 123rd Trooper Recruit School graduates commanders call the best training the state has to offer.

The trooper training has gone high tech. None of them received any books or handouts. Their training was done electronically, simulating real world trooper experiences.

"We have given them more opportunities to practice what will be expected of them in the field. We have made the training environment closer to real life experiences," said Capt. Kari Kusmmierz, of the Michigan State Police.

Governor Rick Snyder spoke at the graduation.

"It is something you've earned, and it is a badge of pride," said Governor Snyder. "I want to say congratulations and thank you for making the effort to go through this process to become Michigan State Troopers."

Many of the troops from Friday's graduation will be headed to four of the top ten most dangerous cities in the United States, found right here in Michigan. Those cities are Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw.

"Those four cities have been identified on a federal and national statistics for high crime rates," said Lt. Kyle Bowman of the Michigan State Police. "Certainly the State Police is going to do whatever they can to help those communities. A lot of them also have some financial difficulties that have impacted the local police agencies so we are partnering up with those police agencies."

The training the graduates received is grueling. It lasts 19 weeks. Of the 92 people who started the training, 78 finished.

"It's like an Olympian going through training while doing college courses at the same time," said Lt. Bowman. "It is very rigorous. It pushes us to our limits."

While the graduation is as much a celebration of the troopers, it also celebrates those who helped them along the way.

"You couldn't complete what I've completed without having a real strong support system outside of this, family and friends. People to keep encouraging you to just keep going," said Joseph Pena, one of the graduates. He is from Stockbridge Mich., and will be serving in Detroit. "Training was the most physically, most mentally demanding 19 weeks you could ever imagine. Just every aspect of it was the most challenging thing you've ever experienced."

Pena's mother Becky could not be more proud of her son.

"If I could have picked, I probably won't have picked Detroit, but that's what he wants and I'm extremely proud of him and I'm very confident that he's very prepared. The training that he's gone through has been top notch," said Becky Pena, Joseph's mother. "It's great to know that what you're doing at home helps them get through what they need to get through."

Lansing is not on the top ten most dangerous U.S. cities list. Of the 78, Lansing will receive one new trooper, Leslie Rochefort, from Munising, Mich.

The new state troopers bring the total in Michigan to 965. The Governor has provided funding to hire another 102 troopers this year. The next 19-week trooper training course starts Oct. 28th.

The current number of serving troopers is far less than the more than 1,300 troopers that were on the force back in 2001.

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