• 68°

Governor: Trooper shortage is critical

(AP) — Mississippi faces a critical shortage of state troopers, according to state officials.

The Clarion-Ledger reports that only 489 of the 650 state trooper positions allowed by state law are filled. Of those positions, 328 are assigned to the road.  And nearly 150 troopers are eligible for retirement.

“It’s troubling. We’re almost at the point of declaring a disaster because we’re short on troopers,” said Gov. Phil Bryant told the newspaper. “If we can’t get more troopers on the road we’re going to lose lives. People’s very lives depend upon having more troopers on that road.”

Bryant said he plans to ask lawmakers to approve another trooper school to get more law enforcement officers on the road.

Sixty-six troopers have left the force since the last trooper school in 2015.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz says at least five of those have gone to Texas where trooper salaries are significantly higher.

The newspaper reported that a trooper with four years’ experience in Texas makes $89,264. A Mississippi trooper with four years’ experience makes $41,000.

“We’re so shorthanded right now it’s unreal,” said Santa Cruz, who is retiring himself next month.