SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — The State of Florida is in desperate need of more troopers. The Florida Highway Patrol is facing a shortage because of retirements.
The department is scrambling to find new recruits. “We have a lot of people that are getting ready to retire and so we want to combat that to make sure there is not a shortage. We want to start hiring now,” FHP recruiter Kenn Watson said.
A shortage of troopers could mean a rise in crime and longer response times, which could put lives at risk, officials said.
Recruiters have their work cut out for them. Officials say recent uprisings in Dallas and Charlotte have shown law enforcement is battling a bad reputation.
“It has become more challenging simply because of all the events that have taken place over the last year,” Watson said.
Money is also an issue. If you want to be a trooper in New York, your starting salary is $75,252. Iowa pays a starting salary of $49,000. As for Florida, well, it’s the lowest starting salary in the nation at $33,977.
“What people have to understand, is that when you get to law enforcement, you’re here to help people,” Watson said. “If you want to help your community and you want to help solve these problems, you need to come join us.”
That’s what matters to Katryna Solley. Solley is a former motocross racer who became a trooper four months ago.
“I wanted to do something that meant something,” she said.
There is room for advancement at the Florida Highway Patrol, and Solley has big dreams. She wants to fight crime and capture drug kingpins.
“It’s not just getting on the road and being a road trooper the rest of your life; there’s a lot of different areas you can get into,” Solley said.
State troopers handle homicide cases, find drug traffickers, and handle cases of civil unrest, mobs and prison riots.
“I’m able to make a difference, help people, and then I’m not stuck in an office all day. I get to get out and do things,” Solley said.
The Florida Highway Patrol will be holding a recruitment fair at the Bradenton Patrol office at 5023 53rd Ave. E. It will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 2 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.