State police to hold first academy in years

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - By spring, a Louisiana State Police academy should be underway to train new state troopers for the first time in several years.

The Advocate reports Legislators found an alternative funding mechanism after Gov. Bobby Jindal failed to include money for the academy in the $25.4 billion state spending plan. State government's money woes have put the academy on hold for years. The last cadet class graduation was in 2009.

Now, $5 million a year generated by a new state debt recovery unit will flow to State Police for five years. "I'm extremely happy. It's something we need to do. It's important that we bring in fresh troopers," State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said of holding an academy. New applications will not be accepted for the 40-person academy class to begin early next year.

Instead, Edmonson will narrow down an existing waiting list that contains more than 700 names. He said using the list is the most cost-efficient approach since the applicants already underwent background checks. With State Police hopefuls kept on a waiting list year after year, trooper levels dropped from 1,124 in February 2009 to 960 today.

The number of troopers assigned to patrol state highways stood at 650 in the 2008-09 fiscal year and dropped to 575 earlier this year. Legislators expressed concerns during the recent session about a diminishing State Police presence, especially in rural areas. State Police Capt. Doug Cain said 738 people are on the waiting list for an academy.

Edmonson said he spent $300,000 a few years ago to look at applicants' backgrounds. He said the list has been kept up-to-date. For future years, a test will be put together - the first step in the application process - for new applicants. Edmonson said the test probably will be ready by next summer.

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