Regardless of our state’s budget struggles and current revenue failure, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol will continue to do our duty.
Oklahoma needs us more today than at any time in history. Since 1937, the OHP has been the “spear tip” of Oklahoma law enforcement, serving as the state’s only state police agency, with a permanent uniformed presence in all 77 of our counties. The OHP is well adapted to the demands of 21st Century law enforcement and is the only state agency with the statewide reach to proactively prevent crime and traffic deaths.
Our troopers routinely protect Oklahomans from things that go bump in the night, as we carry out a wide range of mission demands. Those missions range from traditional traffic and commercial motor carrier enforcement, patrolling our waterways, providing statewide air support, antiterrorism efforts, bomb team capability, dealing with natural and manmade disasters, providing forces to quell riots and civil disturbances, the interruption and interdiction of criminal activity, conducting many types of criminal investigations, protecting the Governor and securing the capitol complex, and tracking down many of the state’s most dangerous criminals.
The value of the OHP as a core function of government has never been questioned. However, the size and quality of the force needed to meet the public demands has been debated.
Under perfect operating conditions the OHP needs a force of 1,104 troopers, with a minimum manning level of 950 to fulfill basic mission requirements. Today, we are 154 troopers short of minimum manning with no hope for new troopers in the 2017. By the summer of 2018 the OHP may drop close to 700, which are dangerous manning levels – levels that I have never seen in my 31-year career with the patrol.
Today, despite our best effort, the security environment created by the failure to adequately fund this critical service puts citizen safety at risk. This evolving situation is far more sinister than budget crises of the past. Simply put, the OHP has not grown despite the state’s steady growth in population and expansion of road networks. This has placed greater and greater demands on an increasingly smaller workforce, forcing leaders to triage resources to keep up with mission demands. Without a rapid infusion of new personnel further tough decisions will need to be made.
The OHP has provided quality professional service through an unmatched commitment to duty, sacrifice and dedication for nearly 80 years.
You will find a memorial wall at the OHP training center honoring the 35 brave men who gave their last full measure of devotion to our state. Their lives, along with hundreds of other troopers wounded or seriously injured over the years, stands in testament to the OHP’s passionate commitment to protect Oklahomans.
Today, DPS and the OHP need the public’s support to shore up funding for public safety. We must have a FY-17 budget supplement to slow the bleeding and a significant increase in FY-18 funding to begin rebuilding what this crisis has broken.