By Robert Kittle
The South Carolina Highway Patrol is planning to hire more troopers than usual next year to try to bring down the state’s rising highway death rate, but it’s having a hard time with recruiting. “With the recent anti-law enforcement sentiment that’s been going across the country, we, along with other law enforcement agencies, are feeling those effects. There’s no doubt about that,” says Lt. Kelley Hughes, a spokesman for the agency.
Law enforcement officers across the country are under increased scrutiny because of shootings and deaths of people in custody, and they’ve also become targets. Last week, Deputy Darren Goforth was pumping gas into his patrol car outside Houston when a man came up behind him and shot him in the back multiple times, killing him. This week, Illinois police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz was shot and killed and police are still looking for the killer or killers.
“With that current climate, we have seen a reduction in the number of applicants that we have apply for the agency,” Lt. Hughes says. “So we’re having to broaden what we do to try to reach more applicants, including going out of state. We need a large pool of applicants to be able to find the right people that can do this job and do it effectively, that want to do this job for the right reasons.”
Typically, the Highway Patrol has had two classes of about 40 troopers each graduate from the state’s Criminal Justice Academy. That’s been enough to keep the number of troopers on the road steady, making up for those lost to retirement or other jobs. But next year, it plans to graduate three classes of 55 troopers each in order to increase the overall number of troopers. Right now, the state has 790 state troopers, down from an all-time high of about 1,000 before the recession.
Highway Patrol recruiter Cpl. Mike Zang says the agency is trying new things to increase the number of applicants it gets. “That includes going to career fairs throughout the state, whether it’s colleges, universities. Same time, we’re always building partnerships with colleges and universities, as well as our military installations, not only in-state but also out of state,” he says.
If you’re interested, he says the best way to get started is to go to the SC Highway Patrol’s recruiting website at http://www.scdps.gov/sctrooper/