Oklahoma Highway Patrol deserves investment
As a lifelong Oklahoma business owner, employment professional and supporter of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, I firmly believe it is time for the Oklahoma Legislature to fund a much-needed salary increase for the OHP.
The facts bear the need. The average annual salary of an OHP trooper is just shy of $48,000, while that of an Oklahoma police officer averages $54,000. Most troopers fall in the range of just over $38,000 to approximately $58,000 annually, while police officers average approximately $51,000 to $59,000.
Many Oklahoma municipal and or county law enforcement agencies pay entry level officers more than new OHP troopers, and veteran Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro area municipal police officer salaries are far more than OHP troopers with the same years of service. Even outlying communities across Oklahoma pay their local police officers more than the state pays its statewide patrol.
The OHP is Oklahoma law enforcement’s 911 emergency call center, assisting police departments in thousands of instances annually, and are the only law enforcement entity with a presence in all 77 counties. The majority of troopers continue to patrol multiple counties alone, and only 735 are on duty today, down from 925 the agency is commissioned to employ.
Furthermore, the OHP loses dozens of troopers per year to retirement or employment with higher paying law enforcement agencies. It is extremely difficult for the OHP to recruit cadets for its training academies due to low salaries, and when academies are funded, which unfortunately is not every year, they simply do not produce enough troopers to offset those lost to retirement and higher salaried jobs.
While there is no doubt most state employees deserve higher salaries, and to be compensated on par with colleagues in other states and the private sector, the fact is law enforcement is a core priority of state government and must be treated as such. OHP troopers have received one salary increase in the last 12 years, and it made a huge difference — at that time — in allowing the agency to better recruit, train and retain its officers.
Now, is the time to take the next step, in a budget year when the state can afford the investment, to further invest in its state police force. Since 1937, members of the OHP have worked to provide a safe and secure environment for the public through courteous, quality and professional services.
I call on the Oklahoma Legislature to make a strong statement this session, and show their commitment to the OHP by supporting a salary increase for those charged with the 24 hour-per-day protection of Oklahoma’s highways and the citizens who travel them.
Bob Funk Sr. is co-founder and executive chairman of Express Employment Professionals.