HATTIESBURG, Miss.–This week’s winter storm may have helped illustrate a point that the Dept. of Public Safety has been trying to stress for a number of months: there is a serious shortage of troopers covering Mississippi’s roadways.
“It’s put the Highway Patrol under duress because of the shortages of personnel,” said spokesperson Warren Strain.
“We had to put people from north Mississippi to cover south Mississippi, leaving some parts fo the state very vulnerable.”
Troopers not only work accidents and give speeding tickets, but Strain said leaving a vacuum like that can put people in danger.
“If you have a biodeisel plant blow out or a bomb threat at a college, you have situations that arise in other parts of the state that are vulnerable.”
He was referring to recent situations in New Albany and Miss. Valley State University that might not have been as well covered by the state police, had the winter storm happened at the same time. Twenty extra troopers were moved from other parts of the state to help cover the traffic nightmare that included over 700 wrecks.
For several months the Dept. of Public Safety has been pushing the legislature to fund a new trooper school to cover what could potentially be over 150 vacancies, with troopers coming eligible for retirement. The force is about 500 strong, but that includes all personnel, administrative on down to the men and women who work the roads.
Gov. Bryant has asked the legislature to fund a trooper school in his budget recommendations.
“We must get a new school,” he told News Mississippi. “I know how challenging that can be, but to do otherwise endangers people that are on the highways.”
The legislative budget recommendation did not include a trooper school. The Dept. of Public Safety took some heavy criticism from the lt. governor after he said during this year’s budget hearings that they were given money for new patrol cars, which went to vehicles for the administration.
The state auditor’s office cleared the department of any misappropriations.