Lights on squad cars flashed and men crouched behind the open vehicle doors with guns drawn.
Just ahead on the narrow residential street a suspect stood with hands in the air heeding orders to walk backward slowly. The scene was repeated just down the block.
"We try to make it as real as possible," said State Trooper Jason Engeldinger as he watched trooper candidates train for high-risk vehicle stops during the 52nd State Trooper Candidate School at Camp Ripley. With 72 trooper candidates, this is the largest class in State Patrol history.
Kim Peterson observed as trooper candidate Bryan Mielke took action during a simulated high-risk vehicle stop Tuesday during practical training at the 52nd State Trooper Candidate School at Camp Ripley. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Trooper candidates will have a minimum of 15 weeks of classroom and practical training before they are out in the field where they are with a training officer for another 16 weeks. The military-style training has candidates going from 5:45 a.m. to nearly 10 p.m. most days. They live in barracks and march in cadence.
Some candidates have decided the rigorous training wasn't for them by the afternoon of the first day.
By the numbers
1929: The year the State Patrol was established.
1,000: Approximate number of applications for the 52nd Minnesota State Trooper Candidate School at Camp Ripley. Candidates are currently in training with graduation scheduled for April 3.
550: The approximate number of state troopers in Minnesota.
72: The number of trooper candidates, 63 men and nine women, currently in the academy. It's the largest class of candidates in State Patrol history.
21 to 52: The age range of trooper candidates.
14: The number of candidates who withdrew since this candidate school started.
- The Minnesota State Patrol
Candidates, who range in age from 21 to 52, come from a wide range of life experience. Some have already worked as police officers. Others have attended two- or four-year law enforcement training programs and are ready to be licensed.
Forty-one candidates followed a traditional path to the academy. New this year, candidates with an associate's degree in any area were able to apply through the Law Enforcement Training Opportunity where they earned their law-enforcement certificate and skills training. Thirty-four candidates came through the 10-week LETO program for the career change, 31 remain.
Trooper candidate Mark Hibbard searched volunteer suspect Cynthia Johnson during practical training Tuesday. Hibbard is one of a record class of 72 trooper candidates in training at the 52nd State Trooper Candidate School at Camp Ripley. Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Trooper candidate Mark Hibbard left a desk job as a financial planner. He graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in finance and worked in that industry for 10 years. He contemplated such a career move for a couple of years and the LETO program provided the opportunity. Hibbard sold his financial planning business in Minneapolis.
"I wanted something different," he said. "It's something I always had an interest in. It was a great opportunity with the LETO program ... where if you had a degree the State Patrol would train you.
"The timing was good with that. The State Patrol was the department I always wanted to go to. When this came around I just hopped on it."
Candidates include an experienced dispatcher, a former stay-at-home dad and those with many years as police officers or sheriff's deputies. Candidates in the academy have already accepted a conditional job offer and know where they will be stationed following graduation.
While troopers are widely recognized for their work on the state's highways and through accident reconstruction, that's not all they do. Troopers provide security for the governor, investigate drug cases involving motor vehicles and investigate auto theft crimes, including fraud. The State Patrol has a flight section and special response team. Troopers work with other law enforcement agencies on crimes such as burglaries and domestic incidents.
Trooper candidates trained on the firing range Tuesday at Camp Ripley. » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"The majority of our days are far different than just stopping cars," Engeldinger said. "You just never know what's going to happen."
Hibbard said the State Patrol's level of training was one of the big draws.
"This is by far the most thorough, hands-on and extensive (training) that I could find," Hibbard said.
Trooper candidate Leah Carpenter of Grand Marais was a state trooper for 13 years. She started in Minneapolis and spent five years in Bemidji. With a father and a brother as state troopers, the work was in her blood. Five years ago, she left to raise three young children.
Carpenter's husband is a home builder and with the economy, she made the decision to go back to work and applied again for a spot with the State Patrol.
"My heart has always been with the State Patrol," Carpenter said, noting everything about the job is rewarding. "After a lot of soul searching, I knew there's no where else I wanted to come back to work."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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