By John Toole
---- — More state troopers are coming soon to New Hampshire highways.
Early next year, drivers on Interstate 93 should notice an increased presence, as will those on highways in remote parts of the state.
State police are actively recruiting for the 10 new positions Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Legislature authorized under the recently passed budget. The state budgeted $723,384 for salary and benefits for the new troopers.
The new budget provides for 343 troopers. There were 333 slots before, with 12 current vacancies due to retirements or other departures. The agency also must manage with troopers on leave for military service.
It also freed up five troopers for patrol. who are now assigned responsibilities within the Department of Motor Vehicles. Those duties will be handled by civilian employees.
Officials expected nearly 300 people to participate Saturday in the state police exam in Concord. Another exam is scheduled in December.
“We’ve been working aggressively in our recruiting and training unit,” Col. Robert Quinn, chief of the state police, said last week. “We’re working as fast as we can to ensure we have a good pool of candidates.”
The budget decision by the governor and Legislature pleased Quinn and officials throughout the agency.
“We are very excited and grateful we will be able to increase the ranks of our agency,” he said. “These 10 troopers we will put to good use.”
Quinn said he sees the additional troopers improving safety, both for the general public and troopers out on the road.
“This is extremely important to public safety,” he said. “New Hampshire State Police have been dealing with an increase in calls and operating at reduced staffing levels.”
The troopers’ union publicly advocated for more positions during the legislative session.
“Having these additional troopers on the road is critical to meeting public safety standards for the public,” said Seth Cooper, president of the New Hampshire Troopers Association.
The added manpower insures the safety of troopers while boosting response times, he said.
“Basically, a trooper will have to cover 50 miles, not 100,” he said.
State police are engaged in data analysis now, determining how best to deploy the troopers.
State police Maj. Russell Conte said the new troopers will go where they will best serve the agency.
“Where the fire burns hottest,” he said. “Ten troopers makes a big difference here. One trooper can get a lot of work done.”
Troop B, which covers I-93 in Southern New Hampshire, and Troop F, in the rural North Country, are expected to benefit, for different reasons.
Troop B has 35 troopers who patrol 706 miles in Southern New Hampshire with its population of 400,000. The troop handled more than 15,000 calls last year.
Troop F has the sprawling Coos and Grafton counties area in the northern part of the state.
There are 28 troopers patroling 1,360 miles of road for a population of about 122,000. Last year, Troop F’s calls for service topped 9,700.
“It’s amazing to try to keep up with it all,” Conte said. “More troopers on the road means safer roads.”
Troop B is a concern because of heavy traffic. I-93 carries an estimated 100,000 vehicles a day.
“With the increased traffic on I-93, we have to be sure we have those patrols filled,” Quinn said. “There are a tremendous amount of wrecks, breakdowns and aggressive drivers.”
Lt. Chris Wagner, commander of Troop B that patrols I-93, expects the new troopers will help.
“We are very excited,” Wagner said. “This means increasing our patrol bench so we are able to keep more troopers on the road in a high traffic area. We will be able to put some more blue lights on I-93 with officer presence.”
That means safer travel for the public, Wagner said.
“People will be obeying the rules and being responsible,” he said.
Rural New Hampshire also will get troopers because of concern about the time it takes to deliver help to those in need.
“In the North Country sometimes it can take over an hour to respond to domestic and 911 calls,” Quinn said. “We believe we can do better than that.”
Lt. Todd Landry, commander of Troop F, welcomed word of more help on the way.
“This is extremely important,” Landry said. “We have a large territory. We can serve the citizens more quickly.”
The territory is so expansive — more than 35 percent of the state — that response time matters.
“Lots of time the travel time, even in an expeditious manner, is considerable,” Landry said. “If we can shorten that gap, that helps out.”
The new troopers are expected to be on the road early next year.
Exactly when depends on their experience. A new recruit will have to attend the New Hampshire Police Academy. Experienced officers hired from local departments only have to complete state police training.
Starting pay is about $46,000.
Lt. John Marasco oversees recruitment.
“We are always striving to ensure that our recruiting efforts continue to attract the finest candidates available from a variety of cultural backgrounds and geographical locations,” Marasco said.
State police also are aiming for candidates who possess language and information technology skills that will bolster the agency’s effectiveness, Marasco said.
The state’s growing Hispanic population means there’s a need for troopers with Spanish language skills, Quinn said.
“I would like to see us recruit and hire more Hispanic state troopers,” he said.
The recruitment effort also is reaching campuses in the region.
“We are already attempting to increase our recruitment efforts by seeking to speak at community colleges in the greater Boston area and by offering to give presentations at various cultural centers,” Marasco said.
Recruitment coincides with state police efforts to keep troopers out on the road.
The agency is increasingly relying on technology to do that, be it with electronic ticketing or computers in cruisers that manage records.
Technology means officers can do work in their cruisers that used to require a stop at a regional barracks or substation.
“I want to keep these cruisers on the road,” Quinn said.
Qualifications to be a New Hampshire State Police trooper People interested in applying for the state trooper positions should visit nh.gov/safety/divisions/nhsp/. Here are some qualifications: Associate's degree or 60 credit hours from a college, university or technical institute, preferably in criminal justice though not required, with no law enforcement experience. High school diploma, GED or equivalent with two years combination of military service or experience as a certified police officer. Men ages 21 to 29 must be able to do 35 pushups in a minute; women the same age must be able to do 19 pushups or 29 modified pushups. Numbers are reduced for older candidates. Men ages 21 to 29 must be able to run a mile and a half in 11:41 minutes; women the same age must be able to run the mile and a half in 13.48 minutes. Times are increased for older candidates. Must be willing to accept assignment anywhere in the state. Tattoos prohibited that would be clearly visible outside the uniform. Vision must be at least 20/40 in each eye, corrected to 20/20. Criminal or unethical behavior disqualifies candidates.