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ATLANTA - It's going to be a bit easier to become a trooper, Georgia public safety officials.
Applicants to the state trooper academy now can take a series of skills tests through the state's fledgling Work Ready assessment program at 35 technical colleges, rather than sporadic tests administered by the Department of Public Safety at just a few sites.
Department officials say the convenience of the new program, which debuted in 2006, will combat the difficulty of recruiting new troopers.
The Georgia State Patrol is about 200 troopers short of the 953 positions it has available, and has been competing with county and municipal police departments for a dwindling crop of candidates, said Lisa Maier, the department's deputy human resources director.
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have drawn away many of the service members who typically seek careers in law enforcement, Maier said.
Making testing more convenient for applicants - assessments are held weekly at 35 technical colleges - should help close the gap, Maier said. Previously, applicants often had to drive long distances on infrequent testing dates.
"We think it is really going to help us in our recruiting," she said.
Robert Friedmann, criminal justice professor at Georgia State University, said law enforcement agencies across the state are having difficulty finding new officers.
"They're sort of looking for the same limited pool, and some agencies pay better than others," Friedmann said.
A beginning trooper earns $35,741 a year.
The assessments measure a variety of work skills, such as mathematics and reading, that are tailored to specific occupations. Trooper candidates must attain "silver" certification, the second level in the four-level scoring system. That's the same level the program suggests master auto mechanics, firefighters and pipe fitters attain.
The department is adding the assessment to other positions. Maier said applicants for the motor carrier compliance division, which oversees commercial vehicles, will likely have to undergo Work Ready certification by the end of the year.
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