WSP hopefuls push themselves

State patrol recruiters test potential cadets rigorously

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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ARE YOU FIT ENOUGH?

Check out the Washington State Patrol’s fitness requirements: http://wsp.wa.gov/employment/fitness_test.htm.

photoChris Roper, 24, of Vancouver takes a sit-up test during an open cadet testing event hosted Saturday by the Washington State Patrol. Roper completed 32 sit-ups during the one-minute test, six short of the required minimum for his age group. A total of 66 applicants began the day, but only 48 passed all three physical tests.

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photoVancouver native Alyssa Beauchamp, 22, completes a push-up test during Washington State Patrol's open cadet testing event Saturday as Trooper Mike Johnson counts. WSP held testing in Vancouver for the first time, part of an aggressive recruiting push this year.

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photoApplicants completed three physical fitness tests during Saturday's open cadet testing event in Vancouver: push-ups, sit-ups, and a 1.5-mile run. The event is part of a statewide recruiting effort by the Washington State Patrol.

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Before even the first push-up of the day, Washington State Patrol Trooper Pete Stock made sure everyone knew what they were getting into.

Stock greeted the 66 law enforcement hopefuls gathered at WSP's district office in Vancouver on Saturday. Then he went over ground rules, and noted that less than a year ago, a WSP trooper was shot and killed during a traffic stop.

The message was clear.

"This is not a game," Stock said.

The group turned out for an open cadet testing day, the first such WSP event in Vancouver. Several will follow in other parts of the state, part of an aggressive recruiting push by the agency this year, largely because dozens of retirements are expected soon, said Trooper Will Finn.

Applicants must clear a series of hurdles before they make it to cadet academy. The physical fitness test is first: push-ups, sit-ups, and a 1.5-mile run. WSP recently added that requirement to the beginning of any application process, to be sure recruits are physically ready from the start.

Saturday's applicants were mostly young, and mostly men. But they brought a variety of backgrounds: Some right out of school, looking to forge a career path. Some already with military or law enforcement experience. Some looking to change course in life. Some who had failed this test before.

Vancouver native Alyssa Beauchamp was among those experiencing cadet testing for the first time. The 22-year-old said she came looking for an opportunity, on track to finish her college degree this fall.

"I've been interested in law enforcement," Beauchamp said.

Beauchamp tallied 18 push-ups and 41 sit-ups, passing both one-minute tests. And as a member of the Western Washington University women's soccer team, she didn't expect to have trouble with the run.

Kelso resident Duane Milne chatted easily as he filled out his questionnaire before physical testing began. Milne, 43, works as a machinist in Gresham. He also takes classes with an interest in electrical engineering. But the chance at a WSP job was one he didn't want to pass up -- "I've always wanted to do it," he said.

For Felicity Chamberlain, Saturday's testing was one of multiple active career pursuits. The 27-year-old law school graduate also plans to take the Washington bar exam soon, and holds a strong interest in criminal law.

But Chamberlain, like others, didn't come at the cadet testing day casually. She has a lot of respect for the work state troopers do, she said, and planned to follow through on the application process.

"I wouldn't have bothered coming if I wasn't serious about it," Chamberlain said.

Many of Saturday's participants kept a keen focus on the task at hand. During push-up tests, the room remained mostly silent save for the sounds of breathing, exertion and counting. People completed the sit-up test in pairs, as a WSP trooper called out time left during the one-minute intervals.

Finally, the group headed out for the 1.5-mile run, just outside the building. Participants bounced and tried to stay loose before the trial began.

Minimum requirements on all three tests varied by age and gender. Men between ages 20 and 29, for example, had to do at least 29 push-ups in a minute before they could go any further. Again, Stock made it clear recruiters aren't interested in minimum effort.

"You'd better not be the person that does 29 pushups and gets up," Stock said. "We're not looking for that. You can go home."

Not everyone made it. Of the 66 who started the day, 48 applicants passed all three physical tests and continued to written exams. The other 18 went home early. Only a very small percentage of all applicants will actually get to WSP's cadet academy, Finn said.

Future testing events will happen in Bellevue, Burlington, Kennewick, Spokane and Shelton between now and the end of March, according to WSP. Finn said the agency does its best to make sure people know the requirements going in -- and for good reason.

"We try to get as much information out there as possible so people come prepared," Finn said. "We want the best."


Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; http://twitter.com/col_enviro; eric.florip@columbian.com.