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New Troopers In High Demand

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 22 Jul 2011 12:40pm | comments

For the first time in four years, the Mississippi Highway Patrol has a new class of troopers in training. The state's highway patrol has a reputation for being one of the most challenging programs in the country. M-B's Jeffrey Hess reports that after years without a school, these troopers are in high demand.

On a hot Mississippi day at the Law Enforcement Training Academy outside Jackson, cadets in the Mississippi Trooper School train, exercise, study and take detailed corrections from their trainers.

The cadets in this class are in high demand in Mississippi. There hasn't been a trooper school in four years, leaving just 350 troopers on the road....well short of the 500 the Public Safety Commission claims the state needs.

Trainer Marshall Pack says they push the cadets so hard because a trooper's job is high risk and difficult.

"There is a lot of time you have got to make life or death split second decision. And that's what it is about here. The littlest thing as staying in a straight line. That might be the difference with them seeing a violators hands or not," Pack said.

Years of tight budgets have kept the state from running a trooper school, raising concerns about safety on Mississippi highways....Governor Haley Barbour stepped in to pay for this trooper school by dedicating more then 7-million dollars from the governor's discretionary fund.

Highway Patrol troopers play a unique law enforcement role in Mississippi because they patrol the state's vast rural areas, and two major freeways...I-10 and I-55...that are well-known drug and gun pipelines to the rest of the country.

Lead trainer Captain Chris Gillard says the troopers need to be well trained because they patrol alone and often face dangerous situations without any immediate support.

"We teach these guys never give up. They won't have a chance when a drunk gets them down in a ditch. They won't have a chance to say 'hold up sir, I need a break.' or 'hold up sir, I need to do this'. They don't have that chance then. That nearest back up maybe...we have troopers working two or three counties in this state. That is a large area," Gillard said.

Troopers who make it through the grueling months of training take a lot of pride in the difficulty and its reputation and trainer Lance Taylor says that pride makes better troopers.

"And when these cadets walk out of here as troopers one day, they will be able to tell exactly who was in their class. If this person was married, single, what his occupation was prior to becoming a cadet and if he has any children or siblings. It is a unity, you will have to become a team in order to accomplish this mission. You cannot be a individual here, you will have to rely on your brother," Taylor said.

Before being accepted, Cadets have to meet a minimum set of physical standards, but troopers advocate that they train much harder then that before starting school. That was the approach for 28-year old Tishamingo County native Cindy Searcy.

"I would run long hard runs. Speed training, sprints, lots and lots of push ups, sit ups, chin ups, pull ups. You name it, I was working out every day. You have to be faithful to it," Searcy said.

Searcy is one of two female cadets accepted into the school and she says is driven by a passion to become a trooper and serve her state.

"It is very intense; you just take it day to day. You obviously look at the end goal, because the end goal is to want to be a trooper but it is survival day to day," Searcy said.

134 cadets started the class and Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz expects fewer than 60 will finish the school, not nearly enough to refill the diminishing rolls of state troopers.

"We have got a number of troopers that are ready to retire. But we are not looking at a number. We are looking at the best person we can get out there and put on the road," Santa Cruz said.

Santa Cruz says he is pushing for another trooper school to be included in the next state budget....but that budget won't go into effect until 2013, meaning the state could be facing a shortage of troopers on Mississippi highways for the next several years.








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