- Associated Press - Sunday, May 7, 2017

PICAYUNE, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi Highway Patrol officers are often seen patrolling interstates and highways, but the troopers behind those tinted windows are usually only seen in times of trouble.

MHP Trooper Joe Johnson is retiring from the state agency after 29 and a half years on the force, most of which were spent on the roads in Pearl River County.

After working security for an Army ammunitions plant, Johnson said he felt a calling to take after his father, who was also a state trooper.

Johnson graduated from the trooper school in December of 1987, an experience that was more rigorous than any other police academy, he said.

“It’s an earned job,” Johnson said.

He spent his first two years in Jackson County, Johnson said, but after he and his wife started having children, he took the first chance he could to come back home to Pearl River County.

In those 29 and a half years, Johnson said he never really wanted to do anything else. Other agencies tried to recruit him, but he loved what he did, Johnson said.

“Thirty years is a long time to be in any position, but if you take his particular situation, he didn’t climb the ladder in rank structure to get off the road; he spent his entire career on the road and that’s very well looked upon from the highway patrol,” Troop K Public Information Officer Chase Elkins said. “It takes a special person to stick it out on the road for that long.”

Being a trooper in 2017 is a lot different from when he started in the late 80s, Johnson said.

First off, the amount of traffic on the roads has grown and the technology improved greatly, Johnson said. Gone are the days of taking down information in a notepad and transferring it to the office database.

Johnson said that by working in his home county he got to work closely with the public and other agencies.

As one of the more experienced troopers in Pearl River County, he said he felt like a father figure working with the newer recruits.

“You guide them the best you can through mistakes you may have made,” Johnson said.

“He was an excellent trooper, one of the troopers that a lot of the young guys call for advice, no matter how big or small the situation was he was always there to help, wasn’t just there to serve,” Elkins said.

Because the troopers work so closely with the Pearl River County Justice Court, Johnson became a familiar face to Justice Court Clerk Kathy Mason and her deputy clerks.

“We’re going to miss him,” Mason said. “Whenever you needed him, he was here. You never heard anything ugly come out of his mouth.”

During his retirement Johnson said he plans to relax for a while and spend time with his family.

“Pearl River County obviously is going to be a man down. Before he retired there were only four men in the district, now there’s only three,” Elkins said.

But with a new trooper school scheduled this year, those numbers could increase.


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