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Forget the fiscal cliff. The Washington State Patrol is facing a cliff of its own.

It s a huge challenge, said Trooper Keith Leary.

Due to a large number of retirements, the State Patrol will lose 200 troopers by 2015. By 2017, a third of its field troopers will be gone. They re desperately trying to fill the ranks.

We are looking to fill upwards of 300 troopers positions, said Leary. Just to put it in perspective, California Highway Patrol opened their hiring for 150 officer positions just recently and they had 50,000 people apply for those jobs. We have twice that many openings with barely a fraction of the applications.

One way WSP is trying to get more people to apply is by opening up testing stations all around the state, as opposed to having everyone make the trek to Shelton or Olympia. In recent years, the patrol has lowered the age to become a trooper to 19-1/2, as opposed to 21 for most police agencies, and is becoming much more visible at job fairs.

We will be recruiting (Wednesday) at a very large job fair at Lake Stevens High School from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. dubbed Beyond High School, said Leary. We are having a tough time recruiting troopers, so we will be there with approx 40-50 other companies.

WSP is also facing the additional challenge of finding people who are fit enough to become a trooper. Only about 4 percent of those who apply are actually hired. Prior drug use is also an issue recruiters are dealing with.

If someone wants a job, we have positions available for those who qualify, said Leary. With everyone looking for careers, you can't pick more of a professional agency to work for. We have never seen this type of hiring for our agency before.

For more employment information visit the WSPwebsite.

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