Once upon a time, the Oregon State Police boasted 641 troopers to cover the state’s highways. Today, patrols are in danger of dropping to levels not seen since the 1960s.
The Oregon Legislature has proposed a $14 million boost in the two-year state police budget, but plans call for trimming the number of troopers assigned to roads by 20 to 309 – the fewest in nearly 40 years.
Lawmakers have ordered the department to spend the new money on murder investigations and the state’s methamphetamine problem.
According to The Oregonian, the trooper cuts are necessary because of increasing costs elsewhere in the budget, such as fuel, equipment and pension benefits.
“Our troopers are taking to the highways and byways of Oregon with the knowledge that they might be all alone out there,” Rep. Billy Dalto, R-Salem, who voted against the House version, told the newspaper.
The department says they would need an additional $4.3 million to hire 45 troopers to patrol Interstate 5 round-the-clock. Ninety new troopers could patrol the entire state all hours.
If House and Senate lawmakers fail to round up more money for state police, lawmakers have told agency officials they can appeal to the Legislature’s Emergency Board for additional funding.
Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, who steered the budget through the House, has offered one solution for state police.
He is encouraging the agency to identify troopers now at desk jobs who might be put back on the streets.
Both versions of the police budget – HB5167 and SB5618 – have passed their respective chambers.