April 22, 2014 9:54:01 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi officials hope to begin training a new class of state troopers by November.
Gov. Phil Bryant Monday signed into a law a bill that would spend $6.9 million to produce 60 new members of the Mississippi Highway Patrol by May 2015. Applications will be available starting May 1.
Bryant also signed bills Monday that pay for more assistant district attorneys and would require police agencies to collect DNA samples from people arrested in violent crimes.
Mississippi has about 500 troopers now, but officials say the ideal number is about 650. The last trooper training school was in 2011, with about 50 graduates.
"All we're doing is working wrecks," said Department of Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz. "We don't have the people to patrol the highways."
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has sharply criticized Department of Public Safety leaders in the months leading up to the session, saying they're spending too much on administration and not enough on troopers. Bryant, though, strongly supported the push all along.
"I've said it time and time again. Without the proper number of troopers on the road, people will die," he said.
Both Bryant and Santa Cruz said they'd like to see smaller, more frequent training classes held at the state training academy in Pearl.
Another bill signed by Bryant will create 16 more prosecutors in circuit courts. Lawmakers approved the assistant district attorneys and funding for the positions after Bryant called a special session on the last day of the regular session, rescuing the measure from disagreements between the House and Senate over adding new judges and rearranging the boundaries of the state's circuit and chancery court districts.
Of the new positions, 14 will be added Nov. 1 Two circuits, one covering Madison and Rankin counties and one covering Jackson, George and Greene counties, will get a second new prosecutor on July 1, 2015.
The 14 new prosecutors allotted for the budget year beginning July 1 will cost $1.4 million.
Tony Lawrence, the district attorney for Jackson, George and Greene counties, said that the new assistants will relieve a "bottleneck" at district attorneys offices' statewide.
"It means we'll handle cases more efficiently and get justice quicker for citizens," said Lawrence, who attended the bill signing.
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