The South Carolina Highway Patrol has 40 new troopers patrolling our roads, after a new class graduated from the academy Thursday, but is still far below the number of troopers it needs and is having trouble recruiting enough qualified candidates.
“We are,” says Highway Patrol Commander Col. Mike Oliver. “Obviously the events going on around the nation have affected some of our applicants applying. We recently did a pay increase for starting salary and that has helped. It’s almost doubled our number of applications we get per week.”
The starting salary for a state trooper had been $31,154, but in September that was raised to $37,069. Other troopers also got raises to prevent those with several years on the job from making less than new ones.
The Highway Patrol now has 772 troopers, including the new class that just graduated. Before the recession it had about 1,000.
The Patrol has changed one of its requirements. It now allows out-of-state applicants, and nine of the new troopers who just graduated came from other states.
Col. Oliver says they get about 1,000 applicants for each class, and those are whittled down to 40-50 who go to the academy. We were contacted about a local police officer with seven years of experience, a degree in criminal justice and working on a master’s degree, who’s applied to the Highway Patrol several times but has been rejected because he has two small tattoos on his lower arms. His friend wants to know why the Patrol has rejected someone who’s so qualified simply because of tattoos.
Col. Oliver says, “We’re constantly evaluating our tattoo policy. We’ve made some revisions to it in the past and we’ll continue to look at it. The problem comes down … when we start having to determine what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. That’s the fine line that we have to walk as an agency. Certainly, we realize that we miss some qualified applicants, but we certainly evaluate that each and every year.”
The Patrol is also planning to have three new classes next year instead of the two it’s had in previous years. That means even with normal attrition, the number of troopers should be close to 900 by the end of next year, Col. Oliver says.