New recruits hit the road but NC trooper shortage continues

HICKORY, NC (WBTV) - Six new North Carolina highway patrolmen lined up at Troop F Headquarters in Newton on Wednesday. They are among the latest basic training graduates, and are now assigned to the district that includes Lincoln, Iredell, Catawba, Burke, Caldwell and Alexander counties.

"They're excited but a little nervous too," said veteran Trooper Jason Goudelock. The new recruits are desperately needed, say officials, because statewide troop strength has been dwindling in recent years.

A hiring freeze at one point and increasing numbers of retirees have thinned the ranks. At times in the past year the statewide troop total has been as much as 200 people short. Even with the new recruits, the shortage continues and will for some time says recruiter Trooper Bobby Lineberger. "We are losing 10 troopers a month," he says.

Brett Hilton is one of the six new recruits coming to Troop F. He just finished basic training and still has about 12 weeks of work left before he is on his own. "I'm glad to be here," said the 23-year-old. "For me it's the greatest thing I could possibly be doing."

Recruiters say not everyone can qualify to be a trooper but they are hoping more people will try out. "They need to be in shape and have a clean record," said Lineberger. They also need something more he says: "dedication."

One rookie school is underway now with graduation slated for January. Another class will start in June and the sign-up period for that is quickly drawing to a close. "We will accept applications until the end of October," said Bobby. Anyone who thinks they want to try out is encouraged to call their local North Carolina Highway Patrol office.

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