(The Center Square) – Broadening opportunities for aspiring law enforcement officers, Gov. Josh Shapiro this week removed the 60-credit minimum requirement for state trooper applicants.

“This is the finest law enforcement agency in the nation,” he said during a news conference. “We need to show those who want to serve that this door of opportunity is open – and we want you on our team.”

Citing the state’s rigorous cadet training program, the move opens doors for candidates whose life experiences and ability to thrive within the program make them well-suited for success in the field, the administration said.

“Filling the ranks of the Pennsylvania State Police with women and men dedicated to serving the people of Pennsylvania is of utmost importance,” said Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Colonel Christopher Paris.

In the wake of increased global scrutiny of law enforcement, those critical of police brutality and paramilitary culture emphasize that it isn’t enough to simply put more people in uniform. Diversity is a major focus for the agency as they seek to create a workforce that reflects the communities it serves.

“We want people who will do the right thing when no one is looking,” said Paris, underscoring the importance of drawing quality recruits for public service roles.

The PSP has seen a massive drop in applicants over the past several years, from 8,000 in 2019 to 1,800 in 2023, reflecting a nationwide trend.

“We start by reaffirming that policing is a noble profession,” said Shapiro.

First Lady Lori Shapiro has been an advocate for creating gender parity on the force. Women remain less than ten percent of the state’s 4,000 troopers.

The college requirement, which has been in force since the 1990s, put troopers in the small minority of state jobs with college education as a barrier for entry. According to Shapiro, 92 percent, or over 65,000, of state jobs are accessible to those without a degree, a critical issue as the state faces widespread staffing shortages and low college enrollment.

Troopers receive a base pay of $66,911, a salary Paris has previously referred to as “an instant ticket to the middle class” and one that can be a night and day difference for low-income families struggling to find their footing in the tumultuous post-pandemic economy.

Ensuring that applicants have gained some relevant life experience and maturity after high school, candidates must be at least 21 years of age at the time they begin training. Other requirements include residency within the state, a diploma or GED, and a valid driver’s license. Before entering the academy, trainees must pass written exams, background checks, and physical, psychological, and medical screenings.

The change, like other hiring practices, will be subject to regular evaluation by the state to determine its efficacy.

Christina Lengyel is a contributor to The Center Square.

This article was republished with permission from The Center Square.

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