The Oregon Legislature has approved a $14 million boost in
the two-year state police budget, but will still have to trim 20 troopers from
That will leave 309 troopers patrolling the state’s roads – the fewest in nearly 40 years.
New money for the department will be earmarked for murder
investigations and the state’s methamphetamine problem.
According to The Oregonian, the trooper cuts are
necessary, due to 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.
Lawmakers have told agency officials they can appeal to the
Legislature’s Emergency Board for additional dollars.
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 roads.
However, the Oregon State Police Officers Association said
it’s not that simple.
“I want to clarify this right now: There are no troopers
driving desks who could be on the road,” Dan Swift, president of the police
group, told the Statesman Journal. “Someone has to do paperwork and
watch over evidence lockers. Those jobs have to be done – and troopers are now
doing those jobs.”
HB5167 has been sent to Gov. Ted Kulongoski for his
Trooper shortages are not unique to Oregon. Many states are
fighting similar battles to keep officers on roads.
Reasons for shortages range from troopers heading to local
departments that offer better pay, while others are serving in Iraq and
Afghanistan. State budget crunches have also hindered efforts to replace
A tight budget has left Connecticut 47 troopers shy of
intended levels, The Associated Press reported. Iowa has 20 fewer
troopers than it did in 1970 while traffic on roadways in the state has doubled
over the same time.
Nebraska’s trooper ranks have fallen from 505 two years ago
to 428 today, largely because of retirements, The AP reported.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in the state have approved adding only five new troopers.
In Mississippi, about 30 of the state’s 530 patrol officers
have been called to active duty overseas.
The number of troopers in North Carolina has increased by 26
percent since the early 70s, the news agency reported. But the number of
licensed drivers has more than doubled and there are 82 percent more vehicles
on the road.
North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has called for adding 50
troopers to the state’s force, but the state’s House wants 25 and senators only
four, The AP reported.
Despite the constraints, a handful of states are making some
progress in their efforts to keep roads staffed with officers.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol will hold its first academy for
new troopers since 2003. More than 60 prospective troopers were accepted for
the academy that starts Aug. 31.
Even with the expected boost in troopers upon their
graduation early next year, the news agency reports the patrol is 93 short of
its authorized strength with another 60 troopers expected to retire in 2006.
Losing the battle to replace retiring troopers in Texas,
state legislators there approved boosting trooper salaries this year to put
them on the same level as police in the state’s metropolitan areas, The AP reported. More than 100 new troopers are slated to graduate this week.
Wyoming lawmakers approved
very modest funding to add five more officers for the Highway Patrol, The Jackson Hole Zone reported. Plans are to fund another five next year.
In Pennsylvania, Gov. Ed Rendell has announced his
commitment to boost 180 state troopers to active patrol duty over the next
year. The governor recently signed the state’s budget providing for $14.8
million in new state police funding. The added officers to the patrol would
mark the biggest one-time increase in the past 25 years.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor