CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Among the 698 troopers with the West Virginia State Police, there are 12 black men and one black woman.
Col. Jay Smithers, State Police superintendent, said he understands the agency needs to recruit more minority officers.
They need more troopers in general, though: 275, to be exact, he said.
"The best case scenario for us, as far as recruiting goes, is to educate members of the Legislature of the fact that we know, through our manpower study, that in order for us to legitimately do the task that by code we're called upon to do, we need an additional 275 people," Smithers said, citing a 2-year-old study.
Smithers and other State Police leaders presented information about the agency Monday morning at the Capitol for a meeting of the state Legislature's Select Committee on Minority Issues. Lawmakers are in town this week for legislative interim meetings.
Lt. Reggie Patterson is in charge of recruitment. He provided a breakdown of the agency's employees.
In addition to the low number of black troopers, Patterson also said only 18 white women are on the force. There are also five Hispanic men and one Hispanic woman, he said.
The Legislature appropriates money for the State Police. At about $108 million, it's not a meager budget. But Smithers said the agency is in "dire need" of more funding.
Lawmakers on committee specifically asked how much more money the state troopers actually need to address personnel problems and other issues. Smithers didn't provide an overall budget request but did break down costs for training and recruitment.
He's confident the State Police could annually target, recruit and train classes of 50 troopers each. That would cost about $11 million, said Capt. Bill Scott, in charge of planning and research for the agency.
"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.
The agency can tie its troubles with recruitment, especially of minority candidates, to funding issues, among other problems.