MS Highway Patrol: State legislature can fix trooper shortage

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi Highway Patrol is hoping Governor Phil Bryant's plans to get more troopers on the road in 2014 becomes a reality. Highway Patrol officials said the shortage is to the point that at times getting a trooper to an accident scene can take as long as an hour. Troopers said that's not acceptable but unless they get help from the state legislature there's nothing they can do about it.

All across Mississippi, troopers are out enforcing laws and trying to keep our roads safe. Nowadays, Highway Patrol officials say when a trooper leaves a job on patrol they're left with a hole they can't fill.

"Where a road enforcement trooper either retires or comes off of the road for a different position, the procedure and the process of replacing that trooper is not that simple," said Lt. Johnny Poulos, of the Mississippi Highway Patrol. "We have to have a patrol school. Which in turn those funds have to be approved and appropriated by the state legislature."

The Highway Patrol said Mississippi legislature hasn't funded a trooper school since 2011 so it's been since two years since any new troopers have been hired. This coming session, lawmakers are being asked to allocate $6.9 million for a 23 week long training program. Troopers said that money will pay for cars, equipment, weapons, instructors, and the salaries of the recruits.

Highway Patrol officials said the school is only way to provide relief for the current troopers who are being spread thin.

"We're having troopers that are having to respond to a crash from two counties over now which in turn you've got someone at a crash scene that they're waiting for that trooper to get there," said Lt. Poulos. "We're not okay with that. We're trying to do the best we can with the manpower that we have in place to provide public safety."

Highway Patrol officials said with the Governor in their corner they're hopeful in 2014 they won't have to struggle to try to do more with less.

"I think with the Governor being a law enforcement man. He knows what it takes to provide public safety. The public depends on us," Lt. Poulos said.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol also operates a SWAT team. Officials said last year the team responded to several dozens situations statewide.

Lt. Poulos said,"I think with the Governor being a law enforcement man he knows what it takes to provide public safety. The public depends on us."

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