Record class of much-needed troopers sworn in

DOSWELL, VA (WWBT) - You might notice a few more state troopers on the road.

There's been a big shortage of troopers in recent years because of budget cuts, but Friday more than one hundred new officers were sworn in to help out.

Virginia has been short nearly 300 troopers because of budget cuts. This latest graduating class is the largest one in the State Police academy's history. Troopers say they need these new graduates to catch up.

Fernando Nunes is one of the proud new graduates. He's going to be patrolling Hanover highways starting next week.

"It's going to be exciting," Nunes said. "Monday is the first day. Really looking forward to it, we'll see what happens."

His new coworkers will be happy to have him aboard. Many state police divisions have been operating at nearly half staff because of budget cuts. These new graduates will go a long way toward giving other troopers a break.

Despite the new officers, Colonel Steve Flaherty says the State Police still have roughly 200 positions still available.

"Budgets have really been an issue for us," Flaherty said. "We've had to make a lot of cuts and of course the biggest percentage of our budget is people."

Flaherty says many troopers have had to work long overtime hours while they wait for these new recruits. State Police did not have a single graduate in 2009.

The good news is last year 62 troopers were added and another 98 just started at the academy last week. But State Police warn it's going to take time to get back to full strength.

"We can't just say, 'okay we'll hire you today and put you out on the road'," Flaherty said.

Nunes says he applied to be a state trooper immediately after becoming a US citizen after moving from Brazil. He says he knows he's going to be put to work right away on his first day.

"First impression you get scared a little bit because you're new to it," Nunes said. "I'm pretty sure in the end everything is going to work out fine."

There are more than 2000 troopers statewide. The newest class at the academy right now should be ready to graduate this fall.

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