The Alabama Department of Public Safety (DPS) does an outstanding job in our state, but much of their good work goes unnoticed by the public. As you may already know, helping to keep our highways safe is just one of the responsibilities of the Department. Each day state troopers in Alabama put their lives on the line to make our state a safer place in which to live. As a full-fledged, statewide law enforcement agency, DPS is comprised of six divisions: Administrative, Alabama Bureau of Investigation, Driver License, Highway Patrol, Protective Services and Service. The Department’s employees are committed to preserving the safety of Alabamians and visitors to our state. They do this through a variety of enforcement, licensing and educational programs.
The mission of the DPS is to protect and serve Alabama’s residents equally and objectively, enforcing state laws and upholding the constitutions of the United States and State of Alabama. The Department’s employees are dedicated to promoting a safe and secure environment for the public by developing and implementing programs to:
• Reduce the number and severity of crashes through education and enforcement
• Enhance traffic safety by examining driver applicants, issuing driver licenses, maintaining driving records and removing driving privileges when necessary
• Curtail criminal activity by initiating investigations, providing investigative assistance to other agencies and apprehending criminals
• Educate Alabamians — targeting schoolchildren, in particular — regarding all aspects of motor vehicle and traffic safety, drug abuse prevention, crime prevention and other public safety issues
• Preserve life and protect property by responding to natural disasters, riots and other emergencies to provide needed services in a timely manner
• Serve the public with courtesy, professionalism and in fairness to all
• Manage departmental resources effectively and efficiently.
As of April 16, DPS consisted of 682 sworn employees and 564 non-sworn employees. In addition to its headquarters in downtown Montgomery, DPS has nine Highway Patrol Posts and dozens of Driver License Examining offices located across the state. The Department is set up, according to major activities and responsibilities, in this manner:
• The Administrative Division serves all other departmental divisions. It consists of the following units: Financial Services, Legal, Homeland Security, Office of Inspections, Personnel, Public Information/Education and Fatal Analysis Reporting.
• The Alabama Bureau of Investigation is the criminal investigative division of the department. There are 71 arresting officers and 72 civilian support personnel assigned to the division. It is responsible for conducting criminal and drug investigations, often in support of city, county, state, federal and foreign law enforcement agencies.
• The Driver License Division is responsible for testing and keeping records on Alabama’s licensed drivers. These records include crash reports, traffic arrest forms, driver license applications and traffic violation convictions. There are 46 arresting officers and 105 civilian personnel within the Driver License Division. In 2010, these arresting officers were responsible for a total of 4,112 arrests, which include 597 felony arrests for the following serious violations: fraud, forgery, robbery, larceny, child neglect, rape, and parole and firearms violations.
• The Highway Patrol Division comprises nine troops made up of 17 posts and communications centers. There are 485 arresting officers and 107 civilian support personnel. The largest of Public Safety’s six divisions, this division accounts for approximately 65 percent of the total arresting officers, who patrol approximately 69,465 miles of rural roadways. The division includes the Motor Carrier Safety Unit (MCSU), Communications Unit, Traffic Homicide Investigations Unit (THI), Felony Apprehension Patrol Unit (FAP), K-9 Unit, Motorcycle Unit, Tactical Teams and Special Operations Units, Training and Career Development, Grants Administration and Weapons of Mass Destruction.
The Traffic Homicide Investigations Unit has 113 active investigators, who are troopers, and who have chosen to participate as an additional duty. In 2010, there were 39 THI cases adjudicated. They included: 12 manslaughter; 3 vehicular homicides; 8 murders; 10 first-degree assaults; 4 second-degree assaults; 5 criminally negligent homicides; and one making terrorist threat.
The FAP Unit is a criminal patrol unit consisting of 21 troopers, including nine narcotic K-9 teams. They are responsible for detecting criminal activity through routine enforcement activity. In 2010, the unit was responsible for significant drug seizures, including: Marijuana (7,234 pounds); Cocaine (446 pounds); Methamphetamine (89 pounds); Ecstasy (51,505 tablets); and Heroin (1.179 kilograms).
• The Protective Services Division is responsible for providing general law enforcement/police services for all state facilities, buildings and other designated properties within the Capitol complex and for providing protection for certain state officers and visitors to the state. There are a total of 44 arresting officers; 22 assigned to Dignitary Protection and 22 assigned to Capitol Police and Mansion security. Related duties include homeland security initiatives, threat assessments and operational/response planning, intelligence gathering and analysis, and investigation of persons of interest and those who have made threats against public officials/facilities. The division aids other law enforcement agencies in matters of concurrent jurisdiction, mutual interest, or upon request.
• The Service Division provides supplies, equipment, assistance and other special services necessary to the effective operation of the department. It includes the Alabama Criminal Justice Training Center, State Trooper Aviation, Communications Engineering, Inventory Services, Photographic Services, Supply and Fleet Maintenance. The pilots assigned to the aviation unit provide aerial support services to the ABI division’s Marijuana Eradication Unit. The aviation unit has joined with local sheriffs and police departments in the implementation of Project Lifesaver. This program has a 100 percent success rate in locating persons who have become lost due to mental illnesses, or dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. These electronic transmitting bracelets are $300 each, and fundraising efforts are being made across the state to assist those in need.
We have discussed proration in the General Fund in this and prior issues and how it will hurt our state. It appears that proration and the proposed cuts for next year will badly hurt operations at the DPS. The Department is exploring all options for trimming its operations to save money. But this is a state agency that can’t afford to undergo drastic cuts in its budget. Col. Hugh B. McCall, the Director, and his staff are constantly monitoring expenditures, seeking ways to use funding as efficiently and effectively as possible and scrutinizing what effect proration and budget cuts will have on the Department.
By combining attrition and spending cuts, hopefully, DPS can avoid any further layoffs. Become what the troopers do in our state is so important, Col. McCall shouldn’t even have to consider that possibility. There are currently 38 troopers who received layoff letters and were re-employed utilizing a federally funded COPS grant for retention of these troopers. But that’s just a patching approach. Due to budgetary constraints, there are no plans to hire arresting officers or civilian support personnel unless an increase to the budget for the next fiscal year is provided by the Legislature.
The Department has not been able to purchase vehicles during the past few years, which can put a significant strain on the budget in years to come through increased maintenance and the eventual necessity for replacement vehicles. During these tough economic times, the public may encounter longer wait times for services and lives may very well be put in danger. Col. McCall is asking that everyone be patient as DPS employees do their best to meet the demands on the Department. At this time, I am told that DPS will concentrate on functions that are mandated by law, and that its employees will do their best to fulfill DPS’s mission of public safety. Hopefully, the good work done by the Department of Public Safety won’t be curtailed by cutting badly needed funds from its budget. If you live in Alabama and agree that the state troopers need help, contact your Senator and House members and let them know how your feel.
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