The Washington State Patrol (WSP) recently promoted our newest female Captain, Captain Trisena Sharff. She was promoted to Commander of the Commercial Vehicle Division, and joins fellow female Captain, Captain Shannon Bendiksen, who is the Commander of the Motor Carrier Safety Division. Both divisions, under the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Bureau, promote the safe travel of commercial vehicles on state highways through education and enforcement.
Captain Bendiksen and Captain Sharff are the first two female co-Captains of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Bureau in the history of the WSP. These two are making WSP history! Captain Bendiksen is also the first female Commander the Motor Carrier Safety Division has had.
Captain Bendiksen and Captain Sharff have 21 and 17 years of commissioned service, respectively, with the WSP. Both have different backgrounds that have guided their careers in different ways. Captain Bendiksen was a college student-athlete, earning a teaching degree while competing as a Division 1 basketball player before she applied to the WSP. Captain Sharff, who received two degrees in Psychology and Law and Justice, was a reserve officer with the Ellensburg (WA) Police Department.
From a young age, Captain Sharff knew she wanted to work with, or in, law enforcement. She had her sights set on the Ellensburg Police Department, but due to job unavailability, she was encouraged by Troopers she knew to apply to the WSP. According to Captain Sharff, “Our employees are the best recruiters. When COVID-19 restrictions are over, I highly encourage people to reach out and do a ride along.” In fact, Captain Bendiksen hadn’t considered a career in law enforcement until she was encouraged to do a ride-along with WSP Troopers. While working as a Trooper, Captain Sharff took advantage of WSP’s tuition reimbursement program and earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration.
Both Captains have had fulfilling, diverse careers that have shaped them into the leaders they are today. “I am a high growth needs person,” says Captain Sharff. “Once I figure something out, I want to figure something else out. I also want to give back in multiple ways. One of the reasons I chose the WSP is because it’s a big agency and there’s a lot of opportunities for growth and to have specialty positions. I’m very ambitious, so early on in my career I started exploring specialty positions and diversified myself.”
Between both Captains, they’ve held over 14 specialty positions, ranging from a Field Training Officer (FTO), Detective Sergeant with Internal Affairs, Drug Recognition Expert, Collision Tech, Public Information Officer (PIO) and the Peer Support Team. Like many in the WSP, Troopers will find a niche that fits them, their background and their interests. “The Training Division will always be one of my favorite positions because it fit with my teaching degree and the excitement of new recruits was fun to watch,” says Captain Bendiksen. “The staff was very passionate about what they did and were the foundation for one starting a career with WSP.” Early in her career, Captain Bendiksen was encouraged to promote. She initially thought it was the natural progress in one’s career, but continued to pursue promotions to “be a part of bigger conversations and be a part of the direction of the agency.”
Captain Sharff, who’s favorite position was being a detective, had the opportunity to work detective positions as a Trooper, Sergeant and Lieutenant. Throughout her promotional path, she has found the most satisfaction investing in others. With a smile, Sharff said, “The part of my job I get the most joy out of is helping others reach their goals, to have them see their potential, and doing what I can to encourage them to make their dreams come true.”
Daily, our world is reminded there are tense, trying times between law enforcement agencies and the citizens they serve. However, both Captains agree the right applicants can change policing for the better. “We are in need of really good police officers. People who want to be a part of changing policing to meet the needs of the communities they serve. The courage to stand up for what is right, to work closely with communities to provide the best possible service, and to have tough conversations about how policing must change,” says Captain Bendiksen. “We do a lot of things right, but we can also do a lot of things better. We need resilient leaders in the future; ones who will help to change the perception of policing.”
Captain Sharff adds, “Is this career challenging? Yes. But if you’re up for the challenge, do it. You have to do what’s right for you. You can be part of the solution by joining our team and making the relationship with the community stronger, and bridging gaps.”
Along with a rewarding career, dedicated co-workers, and great benefits, both Captains agree the WSP has been able to provide a good and supportive work-life balance. When asked why someone should choose the WSP over other law enforcement agencies, Captain Bendiksen says, “The WSP can provide a stable career with opportunities for growth, job development, and other job opportunities. We have remained transparent in our operations and offered assistance where we can. There are a lot of talented people in the agency that make work fun and enjoyable.”
“Having the opportunity to do different things appealed to me. We have great people, and great leadership that truly cares about people,” says Captain Sharff. “Everyone drawn to this profession are amazing people with amazing stories of their own.”
The WSP prides itself on not only being the best law enforcement agency, but also hiring and training the best. “The biggest skill set that’s important to have is your mouth. How you carry yourself, how you talk to people, and how you treat people. That’s the skillset we’re looking for, someone that is caring and can communicate,” states Captain Sharff. “Chief Batiste has set a vision to be the best law enforcement agency in the nation and people work toward that each and every day. Having traveled across the country and participated in conferences and workgroups, I have heard first-hand the respect others have for our agency,” Captain Bendiksen remarked.
While Captains are promoted on career merit and not gender, the WSP still needs more female and other underrepresented troopers to help diversify our agency. “I think most law enforcement agencies are trying to figure out how to be more diverse; how to better reflect the communities they serve. The WSP is no different. We have come a long way but there is still more to do,” states Captain Bendiksen.
The WSP wants and needs a police force that represents the communities and citizens they serve. When Captain Sharff went through the academy, she was the only female trooper cadet in her class. However, 40% of the last graduating class came from underrepresented populations. “Historically, white men, for a long time, were the only people that could get hired to do this job. People started realizing it wasn’t socially healthy. It wasn’t until the 60’s that the WSP hired the first African-American trooper, and the 70’s when the first female troopers were hired. The WSP finds value in diversity. We understand people with diverse backgrounds all bring value. The more well-rounded we are as an agency, the better we can serve the citizens,” Captain Sharff adds.
Do you want to be part of the team? The WSP is looking to hire over 60 troopers within the next six months. The WSP is hosting free testing on February 20, 2021.
Have questions about becoming a Trooper? Reach out to a recruiter here, or visit our FAQ page.
The WSP is also looking to hire 24 Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officers (CVEO), and over 12 Communications Officers (CO) in Bellevue, Yakima, Wenatchee and Marysville.
To speak with someone about our open Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officer positions, you can email David.Coppinger@wsp.wa.gov.
To speak with someone about our open Communications Officer positions, you can email CommunicationsRecruiting@wsp.wa.gov.
Go to http://careers.wa.gov/ for more information.