LANSING -- For Charlotte resident Amy Brown,
training to become a state trooper was a chance to create her own family tradition.
Brown, 22, a former Sparrow Hospital security officer, said for as long as she could remember, she dreamed of being part of the integrity and pride of Michigan's “New Blue.”
“That’s not something you can just manufacture,” Brown said.
Brown is one of 89 recruits from 88 cities and towns across the state enrolled in the 120th Trooper Recruit School, all hoping to wear the badge and uniform of the State Police after their Dec. 2 graduation.
The class was selected from 1,600 applicants and is the first to go through
the police academy in four years. Due to budget constraints, new officers
been hired since 2000 and the ranks dropped from 1,344 to 1,040, the lowest in
“It’s all about economics,” said Col. Timothy Yungfer, the State Police deputy director. “Right now, we’re on a permanent fiscal crisis from this point on out.”
The trooper shortage affects more than drivers hoping to avoid speeding tickets, Yungfer said. The agency also patrols rural areas, performs DNA analysis, defuses bombs, operates crime labs and patrols the Canadian border.
Brown said she’s the only person in her family who ever went on to pursue a career that they’ve always dreamed of.
“You could either step into the shoes of other people, or you could make a name for yourself, which is where I’m at,” Brown said. “It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s good pressure.”
The recruits’ ages range from 22 to 54, and 10 are women. The starting salary for academy graduates is $32,572.
For five months, they live at the academy in Lansing and are under supervision 24 hours a day. Their home, where they will receive almost 900 hours of training, is a seven-story building with 104 dormitory rooms, gym, auditorium, eight classrooms, a firearms range, and a pool the recruits refer to as “the tank.”
They awake at 5 a.m. and begin an hour of physical training at 5:30. By 7, they’ve showered, dressed and are eating breakfast. A superior officer inspects their uniforms and rooms at 7:30, and 30 minutes later the first of two, two-hour morning classes begins.
Their courses include: criminal law, first aid, report writing, civil rights, crime scene investigation, missing persons, fugitive tracking, riot control, sociology and self-defense. Recruits also learn from hypothetical incidents outside the classroom, including routine traffic stops and night patrol.
Recruits said they’ve come a long way since they first walked in the door, but realize they have even further to go until graduation.
Benton Harbor native Kellie Robbins, 33, who had been a local police officer for more than seven years, said she expected to become more disciplined.
“I found it very stressful at first,” Robbins said. “I’ve personally been challenged beyond my limits.”
But Robbins said it’s a small price to pay for achieving her goal of becoming the first African-American female trooper from Benton Harbor.
“I just take it one hurdle at a time,” Robbins said. “I would take it day-by-day, minute-by-minute, but sometimes I have to take it second-by-second.”
A sense of community is almost a requirement, academy staff say.
“They have to come together as a team, and this class came together remarkably early,” said Sgt. Jason Williams, assistant commander of the recruit school.
Recruit Mack Schlicht, 32, of Escanaba, looks to the future with excitement, fully expecting the profession to challenge him long after recruit school ends.
As a trooper, Schlicht could be assigned to any of 64 posts, but hopes to serve in the Upper Peninsula.
“We’ll have to learn to readjust to different communities and different places,” Schlicht said. “Things will work out. I have faith in that.”
Brown said she’s ready to face the reality of her new life as a trooper, wherever she ends up.
“In my eyes, I’ve got a long way to go and I know that there’s a lot out there,” Brown said. “But mentally, I’m ready and I’ll go from one day at a time.”