Mississippi Highway Patrol is celebrating 80 years as a police force. As MPB's Mark Rigsby reports, the state trooper shortage is on the minds of many who patrol the state.
Every state trooper in the Mississippi met in Jackson on Thursday for the highway patrol's general assembly - the first in 10 years. The gathering commemorates the 80th anniversary of the creation of the law enforcement agency. There are more than 500 uniformed troopers currently protecting the state.
A little more than 25% of them, or 140, are eligible for retirement. Department of Public Safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher says MHP is doing more with less, but it's adequate for the moment.
"We're not into complaining. We've got a job to do. Nobody in the public, my boss, none of those people want to hear excuses. When they call they want us to come, and we're gonna do it."
Lieutenant Freddie Pate, of Starkville, is one of those troopers who could retire from the force today if he wanted to. He's been a trooper for nearly 30 years. The state trooper shortage is a great influence on him to keep patrolling.
"Right now, we're short everywhere. There's no district that has every slot filled. If I leave, that makes a vacancy with my rank. Somebody would have to move into that. Somebody would be pulled off the road to fill that slot. And on and on. It's a domino effect."
Commissioner Fisher says the legislature has approved another trooper school this year. It will cost roughly $8 million to train, and outfit the cadets when they are ready to start. Fisher says he would like to ask lawmakers for a trooper school every other year, so the force can get to back to full strength - 650 troopers.