The Oklahoma Highway Patrol needs more men and women to join its ranks. Two proposals at the Capitol provide a reasonable way to help make that happen.
Senate Bill 1372 by Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, would allow applicants to sign up at age 21, instead of being made to wait until age 23 as is now the case. The bill also would reduce academic standards just a bit; instead of requiring a bachelor’s degree, applicants could have an associate’s degree. Applicants with active military or reserve service would be able to get up to 30 credit hours toward the associate’s requirement.
Maj. Rusty Rhoades, a spokesman for the OHP, noted last week that having a four-year degree doesn’t necessarily produce the ideal trooper, and life experiences such as those gained through military service often tie in nicely with being a trooper. Another OHP official made the point to lawmakers that many students graduate from college at age 21; making them wait two years to apply costs the OHP potential candidates.
A large pool of applicants is important because it’s difficult to become a trooper. Last year, 557 men and women applied. Of those, only 147 were deemed eligible; 54 of those were accepted for the OHP Academy.
The OHP has seen the number of applicants decline through the years. In 2005, 862 applied. The total fell steadily, to 424 in 2009. It increased to 636 in 2012, after two years in which no academy was held due to a state budget crunch, then fell off again last year.
Meantime, the governor has proposed that the Department of Public Safety receive a funding increase for next fiscal year, for trooper pay. That’s badly needed, as the starting pay of $33,192 is lower than many police departments in the state.
Increasing pay and tweaking entry requirements should produce more potential troopers. Both ideas merit lawmakers’ support.