South Carolina Highway Patrol shortens training to get troopers on road

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The South Carolina Highway Patrol says it wants about 950 troopers on the roads to help keep community members and drivers safe. Currently, the division is short about 200 troopers.

The shortage has led to changes in the agency’s recruitment and training policies.

There are 759 troopers in the state, 37 are in training, but there are dozens more positions to fill and major changes are coming to make that happen.

“More manpower. I think if you look everywhere in the state, we’re needing troopers,” says Cpl. Sonny Collins with the highway patrol.

Troop five, which covers Horry, Georgetown, Marion, Florence, Darlington, Dillon, Williamsburg, and Marlboro counties currently has 132 troopers. In an effort to hire more people state-wide, Cpl. Collins says they’re changing to an immediate turnaround in their application process and cutting training hours.

Prior to the changes, Cpl. Collins says a certified officer would still have to go through 12 weeks of training at the academy to become a trooper.

“With the four weeks compressed for the certified officers, I feel like that’s going to be a good calling card for those already seasoned, trained officers to come to us because before, they would have to go through multiple weeks at the academy – up to twelve weeks,” explains Cpl. Collins.

Now certified officers won’t have to go back to the academy, they’ll just have four weeks of advanced training, and training in their county.

Uncertified officers will now spend 12 weeks at the academy and 12 weeks training with the highway patrol and the county they’ll patrol.

“With the old process, it was taking so long to get people through the process and then the academy because of the weeks of training, we were only able to get classes two times a year, sometimes three,” says Cpl. Collins. “So, those numbers were just not growing as fast as we needed them to do by doing this new way. We feel like the numbers can come up much quicker and therefore reach our goal.”

Cpl. Collins says because the training quality is the same, and continued education will be implemented, they’re not worried officers will be any less qualified.

“We’re not lowering our standards by any means, but we’re just compressing the time that it takes to get these folks trained and on the road so we can have more visibility on our highways,” states Cpl. Collins.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol has faced a shortage of troopers since the recession, Cpl. Collins says, and although they’ve advertised for the open positions on billboards, social media, and even increased pay, the division is hoping this change in training will lure new applicants to become troopers.