BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana's budget crunch has kept two state agencies from recruiting additional men and women for several years, but now, Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are gearing up for their upcoming academies.
It's been five years since State Police held an academy, but it will start its new class with 50 cadets in January. The reason LSP hasn't been able to have an academy in five years is due to a lack of money.
"I didn't want to hire individuals and then have to lay them off," said Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of Louisiana State Police.
After the last class graduated in 2009, State Police had about 1,150 troopers. Now, the agency is down to 923 troopers because of a lack of academies and attrition. Edmonson said he prefers the department to be around 1,000 and this upcoming class will put it close to that number. The new class will also restore proper staffing to crucial departments.
"There's a lot of things out there that need to be tended to and by having additional manpower within State Police, it's going to allow us to do those things. It's going to allow us to be more effective on the drug problems within the state, allow us to be more effective when we respond to emergencies that happen," Edmonson explained.
Wildlife and Fisheries has not held an academy in the past three years. Officials said they, too, have been financially strapped.
"We had to get the department as a whole back in order, so we've been very strict on our hiring policies," said Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham.
The department is now back in order and Barham said starting in December will begin a 27-person academy. There are currently 198 agents in the department, but he would prefer to be close to 235. Fortunately, Wildlife and Fisheries did not feel the shortage in agents this year thanks to a slow hurricane season.
"We're the agency assigned to primary responsibility for search and rescue and when folks are in harm's way in the coastal zones or wherever they are when a storm comes in, we put everyone on deck and we go get them if we need to," Barham explained.
Wildlife and Fisheries begins its academy on December 9 and State Police starts its on January 12. Both plan to graduate their classes by next summer.