The Mississippi Highway Patrol is the governing law enforcement body for the entire state of Mississippi. They monitor traffic safety, maintain ports of entry and look out for the general health and well being of citizens traveling along the highways of the state. Becoming a Mississippi Highway Patrolman is a complex and arduous task, with a salary that reflects just how difficult the life of a patrolman can be.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol was formed in the late 1930's. The concept of organized law enforcement was still growing and developing, and the Mississippi Highway Patrol was no exception. Salary for new officers when the department opened was in line with most agencies of the day. Starting salary was around $20 per week, and has increased every year. Highway Patrolman normally receive at least a 3 percent raise every year to cover the cost of living, and may receive more depending on departmental negotiations.
Mississippi pays its patrolmen well, and they have a fairly high retention rate due to these benefits. The annual salary for the Mississippi Highway Patrol is $3,000 to $4,000 higher than many surrounding departments, drawing in a large number of recruits. An average of 500 applicants put in for the Academy during each cycle, with approximately 100 recruits actually entering the program. The graduation rate from the Highway Patrol academy averages only 50 recruits due to the rigorous training regimen. The retention rate for the Highway Patrol is in the 50 to 75 percent range, with the majority of new recruits staying with the department for a minimum of five years.
Highway patrolmen are required to attend an 18- to 20-week academy, during which the average salary is approximately $14,000. New Highway Patrol recruits are paid a reduced salary due to the fact that they are provided with food and housing during their stint in the academy. Once they complete their training and become full-fledged patrolman, the salary is increased to approximately $34,000 to $38,000, depending on education and prior experience. Officers with advanced degrees such as bachelor's or master's degrees are paid slightly more, as are officers who have had prior law enforcement experience.
The Highway Patrol also offers generous benefits, including retirement, paid vacation and sick leave, and assistance with schooling and tuition. Each new officer averages one shift of sick leave and one shift of vacation every pay period, with the number of hours increasing the longer an officer serves with the department. Officers with the Mississippi Highway Patrol are normally eligible for retirement after 20 years of service. Due to the highly stressful nature of the job, Highway patrolmen are also allowed access to a number of assistance services, including counseling and psychiatric evaluations in the event that they are ever needed.
Although the Mississippi Highway Patrol has a very attractive salary and benefits package, officers earn their money under dangerous conditions. Law enforcement is a very stressful job, and divorce and suicide rates are higher for people working in these positions. Anyone interested in working for the Mississippi Highway Patrol should keep this in mind.