Two New Bills Aim To Reverse Severe Applicant Shortage At OHP - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Two New Bills Aim To Reverse Severe Applicant Shortage At OHP

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ATOKA, OK -- Proposed legislation aims to increase the number of troopers patrolling Oklahoma highways. Right now, new recruits can start younger and get paid more in other departments, leading to a severe shortage at OHP.

OHP troopers start at $33,000 per year in the academy, increasing to more than $50,000 after five years. But troopers say some jurisdictions are one-upping them.

"With the economy, a lot of cities have done well over the past few years and their pay has crept up to the point to where we can no longer compete with the local agencies," says Lt. Scott Hampton.

A new bill would increase pay as much as 20 percent, and a second bill SB 1372 co-introduced by a local state senator at OHP's request would lower age and education requirements.

"To take the age limit from 23 to 21 doesn't necessarily mean that we're going to have more 21 year olds, it just means that we'll have more people within the eligibility pool for the OHP to look at," says State Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate.

"I started out as a local police officer here in Durant and my goal was ultimately to get on with the Highway Patrol and make a career of it," says Hampton.

Brecheen says where they used to have about 1,500 applicants for each academy about 20 years ago, it's now down to about 500. That goes lower to about 200 after the initial applications are weeded out and investigations are done.

They look to fill about 40 or 50 spots each class and now they hope to increase the number of people applying.

"They believe that military service and an associate's degree is enough to show that they know how to be a good leader, good follower, and handle stressful situations," says Brecheen.

"We do send you to an academy off site and then we station you around the state so people don't always know where they're going for us, but it's a very rewarding job," says Hampton.

Troopers say while it can be dangerous, it's also a satisfying career protecting others. "We have a military-based training academy which inspires teamwork and it inspires us to basically take care of our guys and we're a very family oriented agency," says Hampton.

The bills are still working their way through the legislature. Right now, there are more than 700 troopers statewide. They say with more applicants, they can choose those best fit for the job.