Editor’s Note: This story was produced as a class assignment for the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
Most students dread a meeting with a trooper of the Kansas Highway Patrol, but this was not the case for student members of the K-State Criminology Club.
Thursday evening, the club gathered in the K-State Student Union to hear a presentation given by Technical Trooper Ben Gardner on employment opportunities with the KHP as well as his personal career and experiences.
The KHP began with the formation of a force of ten motor vehicle inspectors in 1933 in response to the bank robberies and crime sprees of the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1950s, the KHP began to police the turnpike for the Kansas Turnpike Authority. Also at that time, protective services for the governor were implemented.
“It’s important to know about local law enforcement,” said Jessica Conwell, sophomore in criminology and Criminology Club president, “especially for students.”
Each year the Criminology Club brings in speakers from all levels of law enforcement including local, state and federal officers.
Gardner is the public resource officer for North Central Kansas, an area that covers 16 counties. His main duty is to act as a resource to the community. He also is involved with recruiting and acts as the face of the KHP.
Speaking personally, Gardner expressed that joining the KHP after three years of active service in the Army was an excellent decision.
“There isn’t much need of tanks in the civilian world so I turned to law enforcement,” Gardner said. “I get to interact with people in a positive way.”
Speaking on employment opportunities, Gardner expressed that the economy has played a role in the current number of troopers and the resources offered to them. New recruits for the KHP are determined by money allotted from the state determines to run the training academy in Salina as well as the funds for their wages.
The KHP has several different specialty areas that range from K-9 units to aviation.
Katy Wolfe, freshman in open option, said she aspires to work in a K-9 unit as a dog handler. Wolfe also said she plans to change her major to criminology in the spring.
“I always admired police officers and love animals, so I put the two together,” Wolfe said.
Crystian Torres, sophomore in criminology, said he is unsure of where he sees himself searching for a job after college.
“I haven’t figured out if I want to do state, local or federal, but I do want to do law enforcement,” Torres said. Torres is also the Criminology Club treasurer.
Before becoming a trooper, applicants must go through a 22-week training academy. Applicants are tested physically and mentally before being accepted to the KHP.
“You don’t really think about the rigorous training or exactly what troopers do,” Conwell said.
A demanding physical test and a nearly spotless criminal record are required to become a trooper. The KHP has recently adopted a new policy prohibiting anyone with visible arm or neck tattoos from entering onto the force.
Wolfe, who recently got a tattoo on her wrist, expressed that she was disappointed that she would not be accepted into the KHP because of it but also believed it was a good policy to adopt.
Becoming a trooper for the KHP is a challenge to any individual, but as the Criminology Club discovered, is it a challenge worth taking on.
“It’s a rewarding career. I work with wonderful people and get to see the benefit of the things wI do every day,” Gardner said.