97 new highway patrol troopers join Texas DPS amid planned cuts

97 new Texas Highway Patrol Troopers graduated Friday. (KXAN Photo/Steffi Lee)
97 new Texas Highway Patrol Troopers graduated Friday. (KXAN Photo/Steffi Lee)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Ninety-seven new highway patrol troopers graduated from the Texas Department of Public Safety’s 24-week recruit school Friday and will be stationed across the state.

“I learned a lot about myself and what I’m able to push myself through,” Natalie Prybyla, a trooper from Round Rock, said.

Prybyla is among the 18 women in this graduating class. The agency says that’s the most within one group they’re aware of. Ofelia Flores, who is from El Paso, says she wants this to be a moment her younger sisters can learn from.

“Anything is possible if you set your mind to it,” Flores said.

These new troopers are joining the department one day after Texas DPS announced it would be eliminating its Retire/Rehire program effective May 2018. This will affect 117 commissioned positions.

DPS says state agencies had been instructed by the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) to conduct a four percent reduction exercise to figure out where budget cuts could be made. The agency learned this would mean DPS needed to eliminate 320 full-time employees, which included 177 commissioned positions.

The department said attrition will account for some of the reductions, but the Retire/Rehire program needed to be discontinued in order to offset the budget cuts.

The Texas State Troopers Association has told its members it was aware of the announcement about the planned reduction in force.

“Irrespective of a conscious effort to discriminate against these older and seasoned state troopers, there is no doubt that these dismissals will have a disparate impact upon these 117 state troopers based upon their age and should be withdrawn,” Department of Public Safety Officers Association’s lawyer, Bob Gorsky, said.

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