By Tommy Reynolds
Recently, we learned that Yalobusha County is without an assigned highway patrol trooper, a very alarming situation, to be sure.
In rural and small town areas such as ours, the safety of our roads is a primary concern for our citizens. Many of us travel long miles to and from work, school, church and home. I believe I can safely say that there is not one of us who would want to be in need of help on a stretch of highway at any time or under any set of circumstances without the hope of a highway patrol-man on the way when needed.
Along with two of my colleagues in the Senate, I have written Department of Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz formally requesting the immediate assignment of a Patrolman to Yalobusha County. I have been assured by letter that hereafter troopers will be in our county and patrolling everyday and that critical roads in our county will be particularly emphasized in the patrolling.
This emergency appointment is only a stop-gap measure, and I will be sponsoring a bill requesting a trooper school for Fiscal Year 2015. I am hopeful that with the bi-partisan support of this issue in the Legislature, we will be able to secure the appropriation for a new school.
I will strongly support and advocate for this measure to be passed, and I have already requested the bill to be drafted that will enable us to train 60 new law enforcement officers. House support for the measure appears to be strong.
The last trooper class graduated in 2011. Attri-tion, retirement and promotion have all contributed to the lack of patrolmen on our roads. Without a new class, the situation faced by the citizens of Yalobusha County will be repeated statewide.
A new trooper class should graduate men and women who will be ready to go to work maintaining the safety of our highways. Not only will our citizens be better protected, but also the troopers themselves are safer when there are more of them.
There are a few things that the government is expected to do for its citizens. The first order of responsibility is to protect our citizens and secure their safety. The alarming thinning of trooper ranks within the state demonstrates the need for a sense of urgency on the part of government to solve this problem.
We rely on our troopers to respond to highway accidents, but, as we learned much too painfully during the Katrina aftermath, they also step in when they’re needed to help us recover from disasters. The least we can do is to make sure that their ranks are as full as they can be.
Trying to make do with less than a full complement of officers is disrespectful, not only toward the troopers, but also toward the citizens they respect and serve.
In life, we know that often we don’t appreciate something until it’s gone. Sometimes, we don’t even notice what we have until it’s gone. Such is too often the case for the men and women of the Mississippi Highway Patrol who serve Mississippians every day. And, when troopers are gone, it’s a loss that needs addressing.
We are preparing for a January 7 start date of the 2014 session. I hope to hear from you about your concerns and ideas on this and other issues during this time. Please feel free to contact me at my local office at P.O. Drawer 280, Charleston, MS 38921, by phone at (662) 647-3203 or by email at email@example.com.
I look forward to hearing from you on any issue that you may have.