Thirty-nine recruits have graduated from the Missouri State Highway Patrol academy in one of two classes held annually.

Graduating recruit after having receiving his degree in front of presenters, including Governor Jay Nixon

Advancing troopers took part in a ceremony before a standing room crowd at the agency’s academy gym Friday in Jefferson City.

Although Missouri has the lowest paid state employees in the country, the Patrol’s Captain John Hotz says troopers’ salaries are competitive.  “The patrol, as far as we go, are very fortunate” said Hotz.  “Of course, we have pay studies that they do with the other law enforcement agencies in the state.  We’ve been very fortunate.  The legislature and the governor have been very supportive if our efforts.”

After completing the academy, the starting salary for Missouri Highway Patrol Troopers is slightly over $41,000.  A check of 15 trooper salaries throughout the state showed pay ranging from roughly $42,000-$48,000 as of November 30th.  They also receive at least 15 vacation days and 11 paid holidays per year.

Although the 39 recruits graduated Friday, Hotz says their two year process to become fully functional troopers is not over.  “They’ve got the knowledge here as far as the laws and that.  Now for the next, roughly 70 working days, they will be learning how to do the job on a day to day basis.  So (they’ll) apply what they’ve learned here to the actual real world situations that they will face as troopers.”

Not all recruits complete the course, as a number of them typically drop out because of the physical and academic requirements.  Hotz says the size of graduating recruit classes is normally 30-40.

Outgoing Democratic Governor Jay Nixon gave the keynote address at Friday’s graduating class.  During the ceremony, he was given a trooper hat and an honorary plaque to recognize his attendance at every graduating class during his eight years in office.

Hotz says Nixon’s support has been critical to the organization’s success.  “You can look around the country.  In other state’s that don’t have the support of their legislature or their governors, those organizations are kind of struggling as far as keeping up with the staffing levels and that.”

Nixon was presented with the hat and plaque by Highway Patrol Superintendent Colonel J. Ben Johnson, who is retiring after 30 years with the agency in February.

At one point, Republican Governor-elect Eric Greitens was also slated to address the graduating troopers, but he was not listed on the commencement program and was not present at the ceremony.