FHP is Looking to Fill Vacancies Despite Budget Crunch

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The Florida Highway Patrol has nearly 200 vacant trooper jobs statewide, and some are worried that it could be a problem for public safety.

Concerns were raised after the deadly 70-vehicle pile-up on Interstate 4 in Polk County on January 9th. Only two troopers were patrolling Polk County when the early morning accidents occurred in heavy fog, killing five people.

Colonel John Czernis says it wasn't staffing but weather and speeding drivers that caused the accidents. He says the Florida Department of Transportation placed warning signs up in the area, and FHP patrolled it for much of the night without seeing any problems.

Czernis acknowledged that stabilizing the work force and getting better pay for his 1,600 officers is his top priority.

The FHP has 186 trooper vacancies statewide. Base pay for new troopers is $33,977, according to FHP, which is lower than many other police agencies in Florida.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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