The Missouri Highway Patrol added 31 troopers to its ranks at a graduation ceremony Friday at the patrol's Law Enforcement Academy in Jefferson City.
The 107th recruit class reported to the academy Jan. 2 to begin the 25-week training to become a trooper. The new troopers will report to duty in their assigned troops July 8.
Sandra Karsten, former Highway Patrol superintendent and current director of Public Safety, told the graduates as they begin their patrol career they would have days that would go by fast and others that would feel like they never will end.
"Never tarnish what your uniform represents," Karsten said. "Never underestimate what you can accomplish through applying your training, and never take for granted what it means to be a Missouri state trooper. I encourage each of you to serve the people of Missouri with the same pride that you feel today, every day that you don that uniform."
Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe told the class he wanted them to be safe at work and make sure they made it home safely to their families after they get done with their shifts.
"You have chosen a demanding, dangerous and rewarding line of work," Kehoe said. "Starting the moment you take this oath, you have the ability to profoundly influence lives. Some people will look at you with admiration and awe; some will look at you with disdain. But others will treat you with the dignity and respect you deserve."
Class Commander William Grose, of Sedalia, told his fellow classmates he was inspired by a statement from one of their instructors.
"When we give you a challenge, don't look defeated, look up and say, 'Bring it on,'" Grose said. "So don't just hope to accomplish a goal. Set a goal, and make it happen. Be the best trooper you can be. Show professionalism and respect, even when it's not reciprocated. Be compassionate and resourceful. Always be responsible for your actions."
Patrol Superintendent Col. Eric Olson had the chance to speak with the class prior to their graduation and found out what led them to choose working for the patrol.
"Many of you said professional law enforcement was important to you," Olson said. "Professionalism is one of the patrol's core values. I asked each of you what was the biggest challenge facing law enforcement in Missouri, and almost unanimously, your answer was the relationship between the citizens we serve and the law enforcement community have room for improvement."
Olson said they all agreed behavior of law officers is constantly under surveillance and often is evaluated on little evidence, such as a video clip that lasts only a few seconds.
"I asked you how we can develop more positive relationships, and everyone agreed that professional law enforcement goes a long way to gaining the trust of citizens," Olson said. "To do that, you said a trooper should maintain proper physical appearance, speaking and interacting with people in a manner that never would embarrass you, your family or the patrol, and being accountable for your actions."
Class members from Mid-Missouri included Logan McDaniel, of Osage Beach, who is assigned to Troop H in St. Joseph and will patrol Andrew/Buchanan counties. Erica Volkart, of California, is assigned to Troop A in Lee's Summit and will patrol Saline County. She was given the academics award for this graduating class.
Luke Benke, of Jefferson City, is assigned to Troop C in Kirkwood and will patrol north St. Louis County.
"I have been thinking about getting into law enforcement since I was in middle school," Benke said. "We had a trooper come in and speak to us, and ever since, I've always had this on my radar."
Benke said he was excited to serve in the St. Louis area.
"Eventually I'd like to get into their aviation department and work to become a helicopter pilot," Benke said.
"So you don't want to hop on a motorcycle anymore do you?" asked Benke's father, John. "No," Luke replied. "Thank goodness," John laughed.