Morale High Despite Trooper Shortage, OHP Says
TULSA, Oklahoma - OHP began its 65th patrol academy Wednesday, helping relieve a state Trooper shortage.
They say those extra troopers are needed to fill shortages across the state and it turns out that OHP is not the only agency dealing with a lack of manpower.
It's a day of celebration for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
47 cadets are now on their way to the patrol academy.
If they graduate, they will be Oklahoma State Troopers and Captain Paul Timmons said that extra manpower is critical.
"We are steadily losing people and not able to replace the ones that we lose," said Timmons.
According to the OHP, the minimum number of troopers the agency needs to do their job and do it well is 950.
There are currently less than 800 troopers in Oklahoma and 22% of them are eligible for retirement.
With fewer applicants and staffing stretched so thin, OHP said sometimes one trooper will work an entire county.
"Yeah, we're shorthanded and that's been a problem over the years but we still manage to take care of what we need to take care of, it means long hours for some people some days but that's part of it," Timmons said.
Troopers also blame the shortage on a lack of funding which has become a problem for other departments in the state.
"Funding is a major deal," said Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton.
Walton said on average 4 deputies will be on duty each shift, serving more than 88,000 people.
"It puts these guys and gals in a situation where they run from call to call … It certainly puts the people that we protect in a situation where response times aren't always what they expect or should expect," Walton said.
The shortages aren't stopping either agency from doing their jobs, but Walton said the burden increases when someone is out sick, on vacation, or in court.
"There is nobody to bring in to fill that spot … our states, our counties, if they want that protection level, it is certainly something that comes at a price tag," Walton said.
Sheriff Walton and the OHP both said that despite this manpower shortage, morale is high among deputies and troopers.