OKLAHOMA CITY – The 65th Oklahoma Highway Patrol Academy began on Wednesday morning in Oklahoma City. It’s the first OHP Academy the state has offered in two years due to the budget crisis.
After learning about a nearly $900 million budget shortfall last year, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety was bracing for drastic cuts.
In March, lawmakers asked each state agency to think about how it would handle a nearly 15 percent budget reduction, should it come to that.
“We have to protect the public, and we have to protect the citizens we serve and we have to look after the men and women of our organization and their families that we’re trying to perform these missions with us,” OHP Chief Ricky Adams told News 4 in March. “If we would have to absorb a 15 percent budget cut, we have to ask ourselves internally: ‘Which of these missions can we no longer do?’”
As a result of past budget cuts, troopers were restricted to driving 100 miles per shift. Agency officials said that if they didn’t somehow get the funding they needed, they wouldn’t be able to host an OHP Academy.
Fortunately, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol received some good news from another agency.
Instead of being funded through the state budget, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority announced that it would provide $5 million to go toward an Oklahoma Highway Patrol Academy in 2018.
“With 26 percent of an already strained workforce considering retirement, furloughs would have been devastating to our ranks,” Adams said in June. “I also want to extend my genuine gratitude to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority for funding the 64th OHP Academy in 2016 and now the 65th OHP Academy in 2018. Without this partnership, our losses though retirements, injury, and deaths would be completely demoralizing.”
In all, 47 cadets are enrolled in this new class and they’ll take part in a rigorous 20 week program. A typical day includes physical training, drill, inspections and classroom instruction.
In the evening, they’ll study for exercises and tests.
The cadets will graduate this June and will immediately but put to work.