Most Alabama citizens would be shocked to learn that there is a tremendous need in Alabama for more state troopers. According to a study conducted by the University of Alabama’s Center for Advanced Public Safety, the state needs a minimum of 1,016 State Troopers on its highways to ensure public safety. There are currently 431 troopers assigned to highway patrol – less than half the recommended number. This creates obvious problems as it relates to highway safety.
Troopers are spread thin across the state, serving 67 counties. Perry County has no trooper assigned to it. About a dozen other counties only have one trooper, according to Sgt. Steve Jarrett with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). This means one trooper is on duty for an eight-hour shift. There is no coverage for the other 16 hours of the day. In the event of an emergency, troopers must travel from other counties to help, resulting in slow response time and putting the public at risk. That can’t be tolerated. The shortage is due to a number of factors, including attrition – troopers not being replaced when they retire – and lack of funding to hire more personnel.
Alabama actually gained 142 troopers in January, when ALEA went into effect to and existing personnel were reassigned to highway patrol duties. ALEA consolidates 12 state law enforcement operations and functions into one entity. That newly found entity is responsible for the functions and missions of the Alabama Department of Homeland Security, Department of Public Safety, Alabama Bureau of Investigation, Fusion Center, Criminal Justice Information Center, Marine Police, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Enforcement Division, Department of Revenue Enforcement, Forestry Commission Investigations, Agriculture and Industry Investigations, Public Service Commission Enforcement, and Office of Prosecution Services Computer Forensic Laboratories. Hopefully this consolidation of all these agencies, many of which had totally different missions, will work. Frankly, I have serious doubts. The plight of the state troopers could be considered exhibit “A.”
Twenty-one troopers also were hired in 2014 as a result of a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The COPS Hiring Program grant provides up to 75 percent of the approved entry-level salaries and benefits of full-time officers for a 36-month grant period, with a minimum of 25 percent local cash match requirement in order to hire new officer positions or rehire officers laid off due to budget restrictions. Again, federal money is being used to fund a state government responsibility.
We are facing a real crisis because of a shortage of troopers. There are more vehicles on the highway as the population increases, and the troopers simply can’t keep up. Sgt. Jarrett was absolutely correct when he said that when there are fewer troopers, motorists tend to have less regard for traffic laws because they have less fear of getting caught, resulting in more crashes. The shortage also reduces the troopers’ ability to complete other duties in addition to highway patrol, such as catching criminals traveling through Alabama and creating and promoting a safe driving environment.
For our Alabama readers, if you agree that we badly need more troopers on our highways in Alabama, contact Gov. Robert Bentley and members of the House and Senate in your area. Let them know that safety on our highways is important.
Sources: AL.com, alea.gov, cops.usdoj.gov
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