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More Troopers Equals Increased Public Safety


More troopers equals increased public safety

April 15, 2013 10:15 am  *  Darin Snedden

Since 1935, over 1,584 Iowa state troopers have driven millions of miles, answered thousands of emergency calls and dedicated their lives to increasing safety on our roadways.

That tradition of service is in jeopardy. Iowans across the state are asking the Legislature and governor to make public safety a budget priority this session.

As the state tightened its fiscal belt over the past decade, every department of state government was asked to do more with less. The Iowa State Patrol was no different. Our leadership performed a delicate balancing act: achieve increased efficiency from each trooper while not allowing staffing levels to drop to a level that jeopardizes public safety.

In 2011, troopers collectively logged almost 19 million miles, an increase of 3.5 million miles from 2010. Each trooper logged an additional 5,600 miles in their normal course of duties. The number of vehicles stopped for safety and criminal violations also increased to a record 240,341 and arrests topped 157,480.

We achieved a record level of productivity and service from a declining number of Iowa state troopers. Since 2000, the number of troopers patrolling Iowa's roadways has fallen from 455 to 357. That's almost 100 fewer troopers responding to emergency calls, serious accidents, natural emergencies and criminal and drug interdiction.

The time it takes to respond quickly to serious accidents or violent threats is increasing as our numbers decline while the distance we have to travel is increasing. The time it takes for troopers to respond to "inter-agency" requests, those that come from other law enforcement agencies on the county and local level, is also rising.

Compounding these factors is the ever-changing mission of a trooper. The calls troopers receive have a rising level of potential violence associated with them, from serious domestic confrontations to armed bank robberies. A quick and timely response can help diffuse a dangerous situation and lead to a less-violent resolution. Seconds and minutes matter. As trooper response time and distance to travel increases, the possibility of a violent outcome also increases.

Iowa's leaders have listened to these concerns and are beginning the process of rebuilding the patrol. The Iowa Senate is considering a proposal to add 12 new troopers in fiscal year 2014. The Iowa House has previously indicated support (in 2011) to rebuild the patrol by adding 20 new troopers per year. With both chambers making public safety a budget priority this session, the number of troopers will increase and every driver on Iowa's roadways will benefit.

The support of the governor and members of the Iowa Legislature is vital to trooper morale and safety when they don the uniform and drive into harm's way. It is also critical to the safety of every driver on Iowa's roadways.

Take a moment this week to call or email your legislator. Tell them thank you for making public safety a budget priority in 2013.

Darin Snedden is president of the Iowa State Troopers Association. He has served in the Iowa State Patrol for 23 years.