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Our Opinion: Correct training deficiencies for troopers

News Tribune editorial January 17, 2015 at 12:30 p.m. | Updated January 17, 2015 at 12:30 p.m.

A merger designed to save money created an operational deficiency. Now it's time to correct it.

Missouri lawmakers on Thursday released a report that revealed training - "particularly water-related" - has decreased since the 2011 merger of the state's Highway Patrol and Water Patrol.

The report was prepared by a House committee created after a handcuffed suspect drowned, while in the custody of a trooper at the Lake of the Ozarks last summer.

The panel held hearings and reported its findings were compiled "after reviewing copious amounts of oral and written testimony and reviewing current and former curricula from both former Water Patrol and current marine enforcement ..."

A Lake area panel member - Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, said the level of training wasn't consistent or well-documented after the departments joined.

Recommendations included: setting swimming standards; annually re-certifying all marine officers in swimming; and developing a command officer training course for those working on the water.

The patrol's response is encouraging. Capt. Tim Hull, the agency spokesman, said the patrol superintendent, Col. Ron Replogle, and command staff "have discussed the recommendation with committee members and will continue to move forward with implementing them."

The merger was designed to improve efficiencies by consolidation of administrative tasks. Public safety officials said at the time the ranks of uniformed officers would not be diminished.

The report, however, determined training has diminished, particularly as it related to patrolling the state's waterways.

As we have said in the past, Missouri's highway and water patrol troopers have earned a well-deserved reputation for professionalism.

Public safety and the patrol's professionalism must not be compromised in the name of saving money.


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