Poulos gives insight on the daily life of a Mississippi Highway Patrolman
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 15, 2017
A visit from the Mississippi Highway Patrol Public Affairs Director John Poulos educated members of the Rotary Club of Picayune about what the MHP does, how difficult it is for them to maintain the state’s safety with low trooper numbers and how that can affect the safety of Mississippians across the state.
“I am very surprised about how many people in the state do not understand what the Mississippi Highway Patrol does, other than write tickets,” Poulos said.
In 1981, a Mississippi statute was put into effect allowing the department to have 650 sworn troopers. That number has not changed since its creation, Poulos said.
With Mississippi’s population increasing year after year, he said the number of troopers has to go up significantly. Today, the MHP has 470 sworn troopers, 90 of which are in the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and 270 are assigned to road patrol.
“We have troopers covering two or three counties all by themselves,” Poulos said.
In the Brookhaven district, there are nine counties which only 11 troopers cover. Poulos said he receives complaints of long response times constantly, but added that if more people could understand what troopers go through, maybe more help would be on the way.
“We are not out to just hand out as many tickets as we can; we are here to protect everyone and make sure we stop accidents before they happen. But in order to do that, we need a bigger presence,” Poulos said. “The motoring public knows that there is not law enforcement out there, and they are rolling.”
The average speed Mississippians drive on interstates is 84 mph and the average speed on Highway 49 is 79 mph, Poulos said. That fact means there is a danger to many people’s lives.
Mississippi is ranked third in the nation for teenage fatalities due to motor vehicle accidents, which is a statistic Poulos cannot ignore.
“I hate saying this, but for all of those moms and dads out there, that means there’s a very good chance of your child not making it home,” he said. “We all need to take that very seriously as far as setting an example.”
A patrolman’s presence is vital to keeping communities safe, Poulos said, but sometimes the MHP has to send a large group of troopers to special events or work accidents.
“If it happens, we’re coming,” he said, stressing that the MHP has to have the numbers to afford to send a large amount of troopers to an emergency and still be able to cover the rest of the state efficiently.
The MHP continuously spreads public awareness about safety, including programs like Driving Requires Initiative Values and Education, and Stop the Knock, which focuses on stopping drunk driving. However, the agency still needs initiative from the public to stop drunk driving and eliminate distractions while driving to avoid unnecessary deaths, Poulos said.