State troopers across Mississippi gathered in Jackson yesterday to voice their need for a new highway patrol school. Troopers say that without the school, no new troopers can be hired. Troopers across the state are fighting to get a new Highway Patrol school funded in Mississippi. With only 500 total troopers working right now in the state, and 120 eligible for retirement, patrol officers are concerned the total number of troopers will be too low. Lt. John Poulos, Director of Public Affairs, says, "If we are allowed a patrol school and appropriated the funds today, it will still be a year till we actually feel the benefits of new troopers out on the road."
Of the 500 troopers on staff, only 288 of them work as highway enforcement officers. The rest are in other divisions or other departments, like Master Sergeant Mike Bullock, who is a sworn officer who works with Mississippi Drivers Services. Bullock says, "Felons, wanted persons, that once we run ‘em and find out that is who they are, then it takes a sworn officer that has to arrest them." Because many highway patrol officers are assigned to other departments, only a few on duty officers at a time are left cover areas that could spread over several counties. Poulos also says, "When we receive a call that a motorist has been involved in a traffic crash, unfortunately there are troopers that are having to drive from two counties over to respond to that crash." Poulos says that no troopers can be hired until the school is funded, leaving the department to get by with these thin numbers. Poulos closes, "When you’re out there at a crash site, waiting for a trooper to get there, that’s a long time to be out in an unlit area. It’s a long time for you to be waiting on that loved one, waiting on that trooper or law enforcement officer to get there."
During major events like the ice storm this year, many troopers had to be pulled from across the state to assist. Troopers say this leaves large areas of roadways completely unmanned, furthering the already long response time.