High retirement and low recruitment have hit the Pennsylvania State Police hard in past years. On Friday, a new class graduated hoping to replenish the loss.
Seventy-nine clean-cut cadets entered the elite club of becoming a Pennsylvania state trooper. Friends and family filled the Central Dauphin High School auditorium for the graduation ceremony.
Among the dignitaries present were Attorney General Kathleen Kane and State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan, who addressed his new troopers with great pleasure.
Noonan readily admitted that more than 250 state troopers have retired within the past few years. As of July, 1,200 current troopers were eligible to retire.
Noonan said recruitment is top priority. Doing so in the past has been an issue due to state funding, but the recently passed state budget includes $210 million for state police; $5 million more than requested by Governor Tom Corbett.
"Governor Corbett and I have worked through a very difficult time," said Noonan. "[We're trying] to build back up and [state troopers are] very much needed out in the field."
State funding this year is enough to hire 290 new troopers, which does include Friday's graduating class.
Six women were among the most recent class, but Noonan said he is not satisfied.
"I would like to see our numbers improve as far as woman," he said. "A lot of women do not consider this as a career opportunity, but it really is."
One of the newest troopers to hit the road is a former production engineer for abc27, Nicholas Bierzonski. He said his chaos-filled newsroom experience helped him prepare in some fashion.
"There's many times on the production floor where things are crazy and you need to move the cameras and something need to happen two or three seconds ago," he said. "So, working and operating within stress absolutely a very good preparation for this job."
The next state police class will begin Sunday and is 175 cadets strong, according to Noonan.
Becoming a state trooper is no easy task. Noonan said more than 2,500 hopeful troopers passed the initial exam. After various written, oral, physical, psychological and skills tests, the class was whittled down to 79, which Bierzonski is now a part of; a dream come true.
"It's the equivalent of a kid saying I want to be an astronaut when I grow up and then actually growing up to become an astronaut," he said.