|Updated: 3/18/2013 10:16 am
||Published: 3/15/2013 8:56 pm
Oklahoma is hitting a critical shortage with troopers and the agency hopes the state can help change that.
State Representative Jeff Hickman introduced the trooper-pay bill. It passed the Oklahoma House 90-0.
"We are absolutely in a dire situation," said Trooper Betsy Randolph.
She says the Oklahoma Highway Patrol is already experiencing shortages and that could get worse with 218 troopers eligible for retirement right now.
Almost 100 more are eligible over the next five years. Randolph told FOX23 by phone OHP doesn't have enough cadets coming in to fill that gap.
"If we don't do something within the next few years our numbers are going to go so low, we're not going to be adequately able to handle operations," she added.
Already, a single trooper may be responsible for patrolling three counties.
Troopers haven't seen a raise since 2007. The starting pay of about $33-thousand isn't attracting enough applicants. In fact it's the lowest salary among the surrounding states: Colorado, Arkansas, Kansas, Texas and Missouri. Colorado pays the most at more than $43-thousand a year.
"Ten years ago we would attract a couple thousand applicants for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Academy and that number is more in the hundreds now," said Hickman.
He is hoping the bill can increase the starting salaries from $33-thousand to more than $38-thousand a year.
"If we don't do something now we'll have 200 troopers on the road,” said Randolph. That's unacceptable."
The bill would also increase the pay for troopers who complete their probation period to more than $44-thousand
a year. The bill now heads to the senate.