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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

37 New Washington State Patrol Troopers Make Small Dent In Shortage

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Families, friends and state officials applaud the 106th graduating class of Washington State Patrol troopers at a graduation ceremony at the state Capitol. These new troopers will help make a small dent in a large trooper shortage.

Thirty-seven new Washington State Patrol troopers graduated Wednesday during a ceremony at the state Capitol in Olympia. But they’re only making a dent in a big trooper shortage.

Trooper graduations are big deals. They’re held in the Capitol rotunda. The governor attends. Families cram the balconies. They’re also bound by tradition. A color guard, the national anthem, a prayer.

At this graduation, the chief justice of the Supreme Court led the newly minted troopers in their oath.

As these 37 troopers head out on patrol, the Washington State Patrol’s vacancy rate drops. But the agency still has 145 open jobs, and a wave of retirements is expected over the next two years.

Gov. Jay Inslee urged these graduates to help recruit the next classes of troopers.

“If you see talent, I’m serious about this, I hope you’ll bring them into this family,” Inslee said.

Among the new troopers is Marcus Bulluck of Buffalo, New York. He was an Air Force pharmacy tech based at Fairchild Air Force base near Spokane. He acknowledged it’s a tough time to get into policing.

“As an African American, I want to show everybody -- black, white, Hispanic, whatever -- that police aren’t bad,” Bulluck said.

Washington lawmakers recently boosted trooper pay in an effort to deal with recruitment and retention issues at the Washington State Patrol.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."