Fritz Zweigart is back home, which is Southeast Idaho to him.
After being a two-year Idaho State Police captain in Boise area’s District 3, he officially took the same role for the local District 5 on Oct. 20.
“That’s where I grew up. That’s where my family and friends are from,” said Zweigart, who calls Inkom his hometown and attended Marsh Valley High School. “It was a position that I waited a while to open, and when it opened I took advantage of it.”
The 42-year-old launched his career as a state trooper in Pocatello in 2004 and worked in East Idaho until moving to Boise to become a captain. He replaces Eric Dayley, who had a 35-year career with the state police.
In Zweigart’s return to the area, he brings newfound knowledge from a different environment in Boise that presented wide-ranging situations.
“So the experience that I had for those two years was invaluable as far as experience goes with exposure to different incidents, different crimes that we investigated,” Zweigart said. “It’s an experience that I would have never got if I would’ve just stayed in Pocatello.”
Discussing his new role, a subject matter that was brought up was the low District 5 state trooper numbers.
Zweigart said there can be as few as one to two state troopers patrolling all of District 5.
He said the solution is multi-pronged, saying that his district has to increase its numbers and the state legislators should look to increase the employee allotment.
“Being in Boise, it gave me an understanding of the importance to build those relationships and educate folks, whether it’s legislatures or the public,” Zweigart said. “To get more troopers, we have to go through the legislation and through the proper process.”
But at the same time, he said his district has not reached the max allotment for state troopers.
After three individuals graduate from the police academy on Nov. 22, District 5 will have 20 troopers — two below the maximum. And that is higher than it has been, as he said it has been as low as 12.
“If we can’t fill those, then it’s hard to go to the legislators and say, ‘Hey, we need more bodies.’ They could say, ‘Well, we understand that, but you need to fill what you have.’” Zweigart said. “So that’s where it’s important for us to recruit good-quality candidates.”
The process of becoming a full-fledged state trooper is around a year, according to Zweigart. There are tests as well as a background check and a polygraph, among other requirements.
The hiring process takes around a half-year alone, Zweigart said. Then, new employees are required to attend the Idaho State Police Advanced Training Academy for 18 weeks and have three months of field training.
Zweigart said the hiring process should not be changed.
“You don’t want to sacrifice training and making good police officers,” Zweigart said. “You want quality, not quantity, for sure.”
Recruiting, policing and making sure employees are well-trained are just some of the focuses for Zweigart.
The new District 5 captain will help direct what he calls “community policing,” involving interacting with the community more than just when tickets are issued. That takes participating in local events and speaking with kids at schools among other things, Zweigart said.
“We have families. We live in the community,” Zweigart said. “We want what’s best in the community and that’s important to us and that’s why we’ve chosen this profession.”