WICHITA, Kansas – – The number of troopers assigned to patrol the 10,000 miles of Kansas highways is dwindling year by year.
According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, the department is struggling to recruit officers and now we’re learning about how that struggle is affecting the Kansas budget.
According to numbers released by KHP, the department has seen a steady decline of troopers over the years, going from 1,400 in 1988 to 267 last year.
Trooper Michael Butler with KHP says the shortage of troopers is having an effect.
“We have noticed a decline in our proactive enforcement and plus the numbers, the fewer number of troopers does lower those numbers,” said Butler.
Since 2008, the number of DUI arrests has dropped 51 percent.
In that same time frame, troopers also wrote about 31 percent fewer tickets.
“The safety of the drivers on the road is definitely affected by this fewer number of traffic stops, the fewer number of DUI arrests and the inability to be proactive and attempt to stop these impaired drivers,” said Butler.
The state is facing a combined budget shortfall of $710 million this fiscal year and next.
The shortfall is being felt at the Law Enforcement Training Center, where officials say they need $3.9 million from the state to avoid making deep cuts at the facility.
The facility relies on funds from court fees and traffic tickets.
Drivers like Betty Henderson, who is a retired Wichita Police officer, says the one solution is better pay for troopers to bring in more recruits and keep the ones we currently have here.
“They need to have a decent living salary so they don’t migrate to other states where they’re better paid,” said Henderson.
One of the reasons that could be affecting the low number of trooper applicants compared to area states is the pay for Kansas state troopers compared to our neighbors.
We looked into the issue and found that troopers earn a starting wage of just over $20 an hour.
That’s about $41,870 a year.
After five years troopers are eligible a promotion an a salary increase.
In Oklahoma, troopers start making over $46,600.
There is a steady pay increase each year after that until the seventh year of service, when troopers make just over $70,000 a year.