A measure changing the qualifications to become a commissioned officer in the state Department of Public Safety easily passed out of the House last week with a vote of 96-0.
Senate Bill 1372 amends previous language on the listed requirements needed to become a trooper for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. It lowers the minimum hire age from 23 to 21 years of age. It also modifies other requirement language pertaining to education and prior law enforcement/military service.
“This is a vital measure for the safety of Oklahomans,” said Rep. John Echols, the House author of SB 1372. “Right now, we have a small pool of candidates for important positions within DPS. That’s almost entirely because our current listed qualifications for becoming a state trooper are too narrow and constricting. We need to create a wider pool from which to hire so we can keep Oklahomans safe on the roads and in their communities.”
The measure strikes out current language requiring troopers to have completed an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to be eligible. New language updates the law to read that candidates can now be eligible having completed 30 semester hours in college and three years of military service, or 32 completed college credits and any length of military service. Also, applicants with prior military service will receive up to 10 semester hours as an equivalent for each year of honorable service in any active or reserve military capacity.
“Right now, Oklahoma is missing out on a lot of otherwise well-qualified candidates because of arbitrary benchmarks that a lot of people couldn’t meet because life took them somewhere other than college,” said Rep. Echols, R-Oklahoma City. “That should not be held against them, especially those who decided to serve our nation right out of high school and never went to college, but are now done serving in the military and looking for a great career. These people would bring a wealth of military knowledge and training to the field, but right now are not eligible.
“This bill ensures Oklahoma doesn’t prematurely disqualify these potential candidates just because they either didn’t attend college or didn’t finish for one reason or another.”