SALINA, Kan. (KSNW) – It’s a special day for the Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP).
Over the last few years, KSN has reported on record low trooper numbers for the patrol across the state, especially in western Kansas.
Today, the patrol graduated 34 new troopers. It’s KHP’s largest graduating class since 2002 when 38 troopers graduated from the academy.
“We’ve had smaller, very smaller numbers over the years,” said Trooper Chad Crittenden, with the KHP. “Sometimes it’s due to budget but majority of the time it’s just lack of interest.”
That interest has been sparked by a few key changes.
“We’re trying to come around and be a lot more competitive with benefits, pay, we’re using a lot more social media and things like that to appeal to the younger crowd,” Crittenden said.
The troopers have gone digital; pushing public safety messages and recruitment information on Twitter and other social media platforms.
They’ve also changed their payment plan, including what Crittenden called a significant pay increase across the board over the last few years to attract more people.
That new plan involves seeing pay increases throughout the years for senior troopers.
One area the patrol would still like to improve in is recruiting women.
There’s still a very small percentage of female troopers across the state, Crittenden said.
Today’s new recruits started back in July and after today, will head out for field training with senior officers for about three months.
While western Kansas has seen a shortage over the years, it’s the metropolitan areas that need new troopers the most, Crittenden said.
Johnson and Wyandotte Counties will get four new troopers, Shawnee will get two and Sedgwick County will also get two more.
“It’s going to reduce call times if we have a report of an accident or someone stalled. That’s two more people on the road we’ve got so you won’t have to wait a little bit longer for us to get there,” Crittenden said. “It’s also to be more proactive on the enforcement side. That way we can arrest more people that are drinking and driving and different things like that.”
There can never be enough troopers to replace the turnover that comes with retirements and transfers but the volume of traffic in those larger cities calls for more eyes on the road, Crittenden said.
“When you have traffic 24 hours a day, all the time, there’s always going to be some call out there, either stranded motorists, a crash, a drunk driver, something of that nature but we definitely need help in the metropolitan areas,” he said.