Representative TOM MILES OP ED on Trooper School and Trooper Support
How much is highway safety on Mississippi’s roads worth? If you or your loved one is stranded on a dark, rural highway and needs help, what would it be worth then? Let’s say you’re involved in a crash on a state highway and everyone involved is standing around waiting on an officer to arrive to process the scene but the only State Trooper is a county, or maybe two counties, away. The cost of highway safety would be priceless in that case, wouldn’t it?
We’ve just come off a dangerous weekend with icy conditions on most of our roads and bridges. The entire state was basically shut down. For those who had to travel and suffered the consequences of skidding off the road, turning donuts on bridges or rear-ending the vehicle in front, the sight of a gray Highway Patrol cruiser rushing to the rescue was indeed golden. Our Highway Patrol answered distress calls in their jurisdictions hundreds of times during the winter storm. Even with diminished ranks and serving on overtime, they were there for us.
That’s why I think we should be there for them, and I’ve introduced a couple of bills to address their needs. We should keep in mind that their needs are all Mississippians’ needs.
First, I’ve sponsored a bill (HB No. 332) to increase their base salaries by $2,500. It has been pointed out previously that a starting Mississippi trooper’s salary is $18,000. It’s $55,000 in Texas and about that amount in Florida. A Mississippi trooper serves about 16 years or achieves the rank of staff sergeant before he or she has a salary of $50,000. This just isn’t the way to treat the people whose lives are dedicated to saving ours. $2,500 doesn’t totally address the pay problem, but it’s a start.
Second, I’ve sponsored a bill to provide for a Trooper School class for this year. Right now, we’re almost 170 troopers short of full capacity, with about 150 troopers eligible for retirement. There are eight MHP districts in Mississippi with 328 troopers to serve them, including administrative officers, drivers license officers and others who are not directly on the roads. We’ve had two trooper schools in the last ten years, with the most recent being in 2015 at a cost of about $7 million.
There are a lot of things that cost money in this world, and highway safety on over 11,000 trooper-patrolled miles across the state is one of the most important of them. For one, I think it’s worth the cost to make sure our troopers are well-paid and numerous enough to adequately patrol their districts. This is a crisis that needs to be addressed immediately. Please contact the members of the Mississippi Legislature at Senators@senate.ms.gov and Representatives@house.ms.gov and ask them to make supporting our State Troopers and a Trooper School a major priority in the 2017 Legislative Session, and do it for the safety of all of us.
Representative Tom Miles