Editorials

How to keep Highway Patrol officers safely in Mississippi

A trooper works the site of a wreck where a pickup collided with a parked MHP cruiser in July.
A trooper works the site of a wreck where a pickup collided with a parked MHP cruiser in July.

Mississippi is a good place to be a law enforcement officer.

As Gulfport police Chief Leonard Papania said at the Feed the Needy event on Thanksgiving, law enforcement and the community support one another on the Coast. The vast majority of people in Mississippi respect law enforcement officers.

We’re glad that’s the way it is here.

No wonder we are losing officers to states on both sides — states that can offer them a much higher salary.

And it’s a wonderful thing to express our appreciation to those people who protect us, to buy them coffee or a meal, or to just say thank you.

But Mississippi needs to do more, especially for its Highway Safety Patrol officers.

Without them, driving Mississippi’s highways could be hazardous to your health.

Now, we know there aren’t nearly enough of them. Only 440 of 650 sworn officer positions are filled, according to the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson.

The fact that there were fewer crashes and deaths during the busy Thanksgiving holiday is a testament to the dedication and innovation of these men and women.

But we have to wonder how long they can last because they are woefully underpaid. The stress of covering an ever-larger swath of state roads is taking its toll. And it’s dangerous for officers stopped writing a ticket on a lonely stretch of road with no backup in sight.

No wonder we are losing officers to states on all sides — states that can offer them a much-higher salary.

Who could blame them?

When lawmakers return to Jackson early next month, we hope they remember the Highway Patrol helps get them there safely. We recommend they scour the treasury to find the money the patrol needs to pay its officers a competitive salary.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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