Troopers raise awareness about more funding on 80th anniversary of department

TULSA, Okla. -- Celebrations are in order for the Department of Public Safety and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Thursday, they celebrate 80 years of keeping Oklahomans safe.

But like many departments, troopers are having to work around that $870 million budget deficit.

While the milestone is worth celebrating, the face of public safety may not be done evolving.

“We can't provide that service like we need to provide a service,” said Troop B Trooper Michael Orr.

For Orr, being an OHP Trooper is more of a calling than a career.

“Just the different things you get into on a day to day basis, it's an interesting occupation to have, I can say that,” he said.

In 2014, he joined a longtime brotherhood that's kept Oklahomans safe...dating back to this day in 1937.

But Thursday's milestone is a bit overshadowed.

“We're trying to recruit and get more troopers on the road, but with budget cuts it hampers that ability,” he said.

Those cuts have plagued the Department of Public Safety, threatening cutbacks on everything from testing sites, miles troopers are able to drive...and of course recruiting.

“If we don't get an increased budget, we won't be able to have an academy next year. So we aren't replacing these numbers that are retired of an already depleted force,” said OHP PIO Trooper Dwight Durant.

792 uniformed personnel make up OHP for the entire state...about the same number of Tulsa Police officers.

“Right now, response times are down. How could they not be? We're pretty much stationary, we're pretty much a reactionary force now,” said Durant.

Leaders now turn to state legislators to find a solution.

But until then, troopers like Orr continue to be committed to making Oklahoma a better place to live.

“It's still rewarding. Even the little bit that I can get out and do, the little bit I can get out and patrol...it's not all about stopping cars and writing tickets. It's about providing a service,” Orr said.

The BOK Arena in downtown Tulsa and the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City were lit up blue Thursday night in honor of the troopers who risk their lives everyday.

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