CHARLESTON (AP) - West Virginia State Police officials say the agency needs more troopers, particularly minority officers.
Lt. Reggie Patterson says the agency has 12 black male troopers, one black female trooper, 18 white female troopers, five Hispanic male troopers and one Hispanic female trooper.
There are a total 698 of troopers. State Police Superintendent Col. Jay Smithers says the agency needs an additional 275 troopers.
"Truly, we are in the crossroads of our agency," Smithers said. "We are the premier law enforcement agency. We take pride in ourselves in getting the job done."
Media outlets report that Smithers and Patterson discussed the agency's staffing needs Monday during a legislative interim meeting.
Smithers told lawmakers that 22 of the state police's 60 detachments are manned by four or fewer troopers.
Thirty-six positions funded by the Legislature are vacant. Smithers said at least 10 troopers could retire in December.
The state police's Crimes Against Children Unit, which has about 16 officers, is "extremely understaffed," he said.
"They're overwhelmed with work. As we speak, we have a 100 percent conviction rate. That tells me we are just shooting fish in a barrel. We work the cases we know we can grab and work from A to Z and get them through the system and move on to the next," he said.
The agency could target, recruit and train classes of 50 troopers each annually if it had sufficient funding, Smithers said.
"If we knew that that funding was available over the course of the next five years to the point where we could go out and target people in our areas of need, it would be a simple process," Smithers said.
Patterson, the agency's recruitment coordinator, said that he is trying to recruit more minority candidates. But finding and retaining talent is a challenge because of money and other issues.
He said that there are misperceptions about law enforcement in general, and a general lack of knowledge about what troopers do. There also are difficulties enticing candidates to go to places in need, such as McDowell County.
Recently, 53 people were vetted and ready to take the class needed to become troopers. But the class was delayed because of funding constraints, he said.