Lack of troopers a problem for state

Published 6:03 pm Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Mississippi Highway Patrol is struggling to keep enough troopers on the road, with staffing at an all-time low, according to The Associated Press.

That’s worrisome for the state’s residents, who depend on troopers to enforce laws and keep them safe.

State law says the Highway Patrol can have 650 sworn officers. It now has roughly 440, including those in the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, driver services and officers at headquarters. That leaves about 300 troopers in the nine districts, AP reported.

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The shortage is largely due to low pay and the challenges inherent with the work.

In the Brookhaven District, for example, 10 troopers cover the roads in nine counties. Patrol spokesman Johnny Poulos said an increasing number of wrecks and injuries on highways and interstates is a result of short staffing.

Mississippi legislators approved troopers’ pay raises and set steps to increase pay every four years last year. But it’s not enough to keep troopers on the job for long. Some have left for better pay at federal agencies or for similar jobs in other states, AP reported.

For comparison, a trooper with four years’ experience in Texas makes $89,264, while a Mississippi trooper with four years’ experience makes $41,000. That’s quite a difference, so it’s not surprising that the state’s troopers leave.

So what’s the solution? Better pay is a good start, and while legislators have increased pay it’s not enough. Mississippi’s pay doesn’t have to match Texas’ to be competitive, but it’s going to take more money than they make now.

Public safety must be funded at a level that keeps troopers on the job. It’s up to legislators to figure out how to do that without breaking the bank.