The West Virginia State Police are close to getting the go-ahead to beef up their ranks, a move that is intended to help make travel on the state’s roadways safer.
House lawmakers voted unanimously to sign off on Senate changes to a bill that would increase the minimum number of troopers “up to” 800 by July 2016. The bill, HB4397, now moves to Gov. Joe Manchin’s desk.
West Virginia now employs 668 State Police officers, according to a fiscal note on the bill. If signed into law, the state police superintendent would be given authority to develop a program to increase the number of troopers during the next six years.
The West Virginia Troopers Association wants the increase in ranks to better address problems with crime. They cite figures that show there are only 1.69 officers for every 1,000 residents. The national average is 2.5 officers per 1,000 residents, they say.
“The State Police has just not adequately been provided the needed manpower to appropriately address the increase in crime and added responsibilities,” John Smith Jr., WVTA president, said in a statement.
Critics of the plan say it doesn’t mandate that the State Police reach a specific goal.
The fiscal note says the cost of cadet classes to attain the desired trooper level would be nearly $8.8 million.
The State Police would be required to provide lawmakers annual updates on their progress toward reaching the sought number of positions.
To view other legislative activities of interest for West Virginia in 2010, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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