(Michelle Higginbotham / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, July 08, 2013 5:45 PM
Last week’s announcement that the State Police Academy will resume brings welcomed, albeit long overdue, news.
The academy that trains new troopers had become a victim of the state’s budget woes, having been shuttered for the last three years.
Without the infusion of new blood, State Police ranks had been thinned, falling from 1,124 in 2009 to today’s current 960 roster, a cut of 23 percent. Consequently, the number of troopers assigned to patrol the state’s highway system had dropped from 650 to 575, a reduction of more than 11 percent.
The cuts had been felt in all nine regions, including Troop D, which patrols Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jefferson Davis parishes. Not only was patrol strength jeopardized, but State Police’s investigative ability also suffered.
‘‘I’m extremely happy, said State Police Col. Mike Edmonson. ‘‘It’s something we need to do. It’s important that we bring in fresh troopers.’’
Lobbied by law enforcement officials throughout the state, including many in rural areas that rely heavily on State Police to supplement highway patrols, state lawmakers dedicated $5 million annually for the next five years to fund the academy. The money will come from the newly created Office of Debt Recovery that is charged with collecting debts owed to state government.
State Police officials say they have more than 730 applicants for the academy in hand. Edmonson said the list of applicants has been kept current, including background checks.
To qualify, candidates must have two years experience in law enforcement that includes armed duty with the power to arrest, or a minimum of 60 semester hours at an accredited college or university, or a combination of those two criteria, or three years continuous active military duty or eight consecutive years of full-time federal, state or local government employment.
Candidates must pass written, physical and medical examinations, an extensive background check and an oral interview.
Forty candidates will be selected for the academy that normally runs about four months.
The intensive training includes police officer standards, crash investigations, survival and leadership values.
Any more erosion of State Police strength without resupply of fresh troopers likely would have compromised its ability to maintain its current patrol and investigative powers. The restart of the State Police Academy comes in the nick of time.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.