- Associated Press - Saturday, July 19, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Two bills that passed the Legislature this past spring have sparked an increase in the number of applicants to join the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, officials said.

More than 800 candidates applied for the trooper academy- the most since 2006 - after the two bills passed. Before the bills went into effect, the department had fewer than 300 applications, Chief Ricky Adams told The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1u2Ypen ) in a story published Saturday.

One bill gives active and would-be troopers a pay increase. The second bill removed language saying applicants had to have a college degree. Instead, the patrol can now hire troopers with at least 32 credit hours and an honorable discharge from the military. That has allowed more veterans to apply, who may have been qualified to serve as a trooper but did not have the degree necessary to get into the academy.0

Adams said the changes allow the patrol to compete against other state departments, fire stations and private industries for good candidates.

“To be competitive to try to get out and get these people to come in the door is extremely important,” Adams said. “Basically, these two bills put us back in the game.”

In recent years, the patrol lacked money to even hold an academy for potential troopers, Adams said.

The decreasing number of troopers was hurting morale, Adams said, and meant fewer troopers on the road, which left the remaining troopers more vulnerable to dangerous situations, Adams said.

He believes once those numbers start increasing and the patrol hires better qualified candidates, it will allow better service to the public.

“What we will see from that is you’ll see a reduction in fatality rates, you’ll see a reduction in accident rates,” Adams said. “There’s nothing that makes people slow down and behave themselves more than when you see a patrol unit.”

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Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com


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