The Future Looks Bright for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol - May 2012
The future looks bright for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
Officials at the state's Department of Public Safety (DPS) breathed a sigh of relief this week when they received news that annual funding for Oklahoma Highway Patrol academies had been secured at the state capitol. The funding which comes in with an annual five million dollar price tag was supported by the Governor and other key figures in order to secure the future not only of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, but the safety of Oklahoman's and others who travel across the state.
When considering the growth rate of the state, in contrast to the dwindling numbers of State Troopers, DPS officials realized the criticality of obtaining support for an annual Trooper academy. "We only have 754 Troopers for the entire state, compared to 825 we had in 1998," said Michael C. Thompson, Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. "Without an annual academy, it's been a real struggle to keep pace with attrition; now with the support of Governor Fallin, and other state leaders our concerns have been alleviated," said Thompson.
While Oklahoma's population has continued to grow, the OHP's numbers have fallen. The state's population growth rate over the past 10 years has outpaced neighboring states like Kansas and Missouri. Although the Department of Public Safety considers 1,104 State Troopers a perfect number of personnel to completely cover all of its statewide mission requirements, officials realize even with annual academies it might take a decade or longer to equal the 1998 numbers due to existing, and expected levels of attrition.
"Despite expanding populations, and increased calls for service, it's essential for the state's premier law enforcement agency to meet the needs of the public, and at the same levels of dedication and professionalism that was established 75 years ago when DPS was created," Thompson said.
The increases the Patrol will see will better allow Oklahoma Troopers not only to respond to calls in a more timely manner, but will also ensure that proper levels of coverage are provided on state roads, and waterways. Additionally, the Patrol will better be able to fulfill the many other aspects and areas of responsibility such as marine enforcement, state-wide bomb calls, commercial motor vehicle enforcement, homeland security requirements, it's aviation mission, safety education, and the numerous other law enforcement related responsibilities placed on the patrol.
"We're grateful for the strong leadership displayed by our legislators in support of this action. Their tenacity will undoubtedly prove beneficial for all Oklahomans," said Thompson.
In addition to Governor Mary Fallin, other prominent legislators that made this possible included: Senators Don Barrington, Clark Jolley, Jonathan Nichols; Representatives Earl Sears, Lisa Billy; and President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, as well as Speaker of the House Kris Steele.