Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Despite largest training class in years, Delaware State Police continue to face recruitment issues

Delaware Public Media

The Delaware State Police (DSP) continue to face recruitment problems, seeing a 70% decrease since 2018.

DSP Superintendent Colonel Melissa Zebley told the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) the current class of 27 recruits in the state trooper training academy is one of the largest classes the department has seen in several years, but a 51 trooper deficit remains.

Zebley says the training academy has received 85 applicants for their fall recruit class — in 2020, they had over a thousand.

Officers also need to be pulled off patrol and into new program positions, which creates additional staffing problems.

The recently re-established Firearm Transaction Approval Program, putting the State Bureau of Investigation in charge of firearm background checks, requires seven sworn officer positions to manage the program.

“We try to be very strategic about not hiring and putting them all in now until there’s work there to be done because they’re out assigned to shifts up and down the state at present. So any new legislation certainly will have an implication until recruiting and staffing is where it once was," Zebley says.

Concerned about the current hiring delays, State Rep. Kim Williams (D-Newport) asked how the department plans to staff the additional 10 sworn personnel required to enforce the proposed permit-to-purchase bill if passed.

Department of Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Nathanial McQueen says although there may be a delay, the department will ultimately fill the positions and look for potential overlap or ways to save on staffing.

State Sen. Dave Lawson (R-Marydel) says funding recruitment efforts for DSP should be a priority in fiscal year 2025.

“I’d like to see if we could find some money for the recruitment, considering you only have 85 applicants. I think that we need to do a hammer down on getting this pool picked up because the only thing that’s going to happen is standards will get lowered," Lawson says.

Zebley believes the COVID-19 pandemic created a shift in the workforce, saying the increase in virtual jobs is difficult to compete with.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.