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Highway Patrol leaders voice concerns about lack of training

During more than five hours of hearings Wednesday, a bipartisan group of state representatives discussed the effectiveness of the 2011 water patrol merger into the Highway Patrol.

The meeting came five months after 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson drowned while in Highway Patrol custody at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Everyone who took the stand Wednesday spoke of training whether it was a retired officer before the merger or those training recruits currently.

All nine of the troop commanders in the state have never been marine officers. However, they are the ones in charge of Missouri’s waterways.

“There is no mandatory training right now, but again we are sending those captains to conferences,” said Col. Ronald Replogle the superintendent of Missouri State Highway Patrol.

“I don’t know how you can supervise people on the water based upon what Sgt. Henry said about the special, unique qualities you need in order to be on the water, without actually doing it yourself.”

Sgt. Randy Henry,a zone supervisor for water patrol, admitted some part-time officers on the water do not have specific training they have to go through.

“In their training at this time there is no protocol, just an email about what these officers were supposed to perform,” said Henry.

Henry said for legal reasons he could not elaborate on what was said in the email.

New recruits go through the academy and do receive 36 hours of marine training.

It’s the part-time, supplemental troopers, who go from roads to waterways who have differing levels of training.

Some, ABC 17 News learned never even passed the swimming test.

“There was great concern because some of these part timers didn’t take the final swim test at the academy for whatever reason they were hurt or something. They graduated from the four week boat class without taking the test much less passing it,” said Henry.

Henry said at the Lake of the Ozarks during any given shift there was at least one part time trooper on the water.

While this hearing was called after Ellingson’s death, his name did not come up during testimony.

Trooper Anthony Piercy who arrested Ellingson was an 18 year veteran road trooper.

It was his third summer on the lake and from his testimony at last month’s coroner’s inquest he was a part time marine officer.

At the inquest on Sept. 4, he said he felt his training was inadequate.

The next hearing will be Oct. 14 at Osage Beach City Hall.

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