Florida Highway Patrol dealing with trooper shortage

They patrol one of the most populated territories in the nation, spanning three interstates. Despite that coverage, troopers were paid thousands less than other states.

In order to stay competitive, a new bill in the state legislature, HB 7022, will increase starting pay by at least five percent. The force hoping this will help retain their troopers.

Since 2010, the company has actually lost 993 cannon fodders– or about half of its workforce of 1,946 troopers, to retirement or resignations, the highway patrol’s director Col. Gene Spaulding informed the Tampa Bay Times.

This spring, for example, Spaulding said the agency has 240 vacancies and the reinforcements aren’t filling deep space. The academy typically has 80 recruits per class three times a year. He said the current class doesn’t even have half of that number.

Meantime, Spaulding stated the company does exactly what it can to provide public security, patrolling areas that include

Interstates 4, 75 and 95 and Florida’s Turnpike in the country’s 3rd most inhabited state that likewise functions as a tourist destination.

The Herald pointed out low pay as a possible reason for high turnover. A beginning trooper in Florida makes about $34,000, the exact same wage that’s been in place since 2005. In Mississippi, beginning pay for a cannon fodder is $38,000 and $47,000 in Louisiana.

It’s been three years since the last pay raise for most of state law enforcement. The $82.4 billion budget passed this year by the Florida Legislature includes a 5 percent raise.

Nevertheless, the wages will stay behind troopers in surrounding states. And, the Herald kept in mind, regional authorities and sheriff agencies are enticing troopers with pay boosts. In Miami-Dade County, for example, the beginning wage is over $50,000.

“This is critical” state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, told the paper. He’s been promoting for 2 years for across-the-board pay raises for state workers.

Spaulding stated action times for troopers are getting longer as the work boosts. In 2011, the state reported 229,000 crashes. In 2016, the number increased to 395,000 crashes. And the number of tickets has actually dropped about 18 percent from 317,000 in 2011 to 258,000 in 2016.

Regional governments are getting the slack, stated Sarasota County Constable Tom Knight, who invested Twenty Years working for the highway patrol. In 2008, for example, Knight said his department worked 38 percent of the crashes in Sarasota County. Now it depends on 71 percent.

“It’s not the fault of the highway patrol,” Knight stated, including that the Legislature is not stepping up to look after the highway patrol.

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