MHP making push to restore numbers

West Point Rotary Club member Tommy Bryan gets Lt. Col. Randy Ginn of the Mississippi Highway Patrol at Thursday’s meeting.
Steve Rogers
Staff Writer

With any luck, the Mississippi Highway Patrol will get enough funding during the next five years to hire a net gain of more than 100 new troopers to get close to its authorized ranks.

That push would help the state’s largest law enforcement agency better do its job of interacting with the public rather than just being reactive, one of the agency’s top commanders told a Clay County civic group Thursday.

The highway patrol currently has 485 sworn officers, but it’s authorized for 650. Unfortunately, 2007, when it had 628 troopers, was the last time the agency was even close to the 650 number.

Since then, a combination of tight state budgets and dwindling pool of candidates has left the agency constantly struggling to stay ahead of its mission, Lt. Col. Randy Ginn told the Rotary Club.
“We can be more effective just by being somewhere, by being seen,” Ginn said.

“We’re public servants, we’re not meant to be heavy-handed. Instead it’s about protecting and helping those most in need,” continued Ginn, a 31-year veteran of the agency who spent much of his career stationed in the Starkville post and patrolling Monroe County before working with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and then being promoted through the ranks to his current position of deputy director.

Part of that work means demonstrating to the public that troopers are brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers who are neighbors, fellow church members, “part of the community,” he explained.

“A pat on the back and a kind word can effect people for the rest of their lives,” he said of the department’s attitude with the public.

He said the MHP started falling behind on its numbers between 2011 and 2015. In the last two years, the Legislature has provided funding for new classes, including a group of 47 who graduates April 1. But to offset annual retirements, the agency needs to get even more.

That is increasingly difficult.

“In 1987 when I applied, we had 1,600 people after 50 jobs. The last class we had 400 people apply,” he noted, adding, “We are trying our best to get people who meet the standards and integrity and morals.”