Ensuring Iowa's Safety: A plan to rebuild the ranks of the Iowa State Patrol
I have been fortunate to be a member of the Iowa State Patrol for over 20 years. I work alongside dedicated and professional public servants, my fellow Iowa State Troopers. My colleagues have honored me by electing me the President of the Iowa State Troopers Association, a volunteer position I undertake in addition to my official duties.
In the capacity as ISTA President, I speak with many of my public safety colleagues around the state. There is a growing awareness that recent state budget cuts have been so severe that the safety of Iowans is on the verge of being critically compromised.
Today, there are 371 troopers in the Patrol-- a 45 year low. A lot has changed on Iowa's roadways in those 45 years. There are more cars, more trucks, and a more sophisticated, organized contraband trafficking network on our highways.
Our Troopers today are some of the most technologically-proficient law officers in the field. Working in concert with the Department of Public Safety, the Patrol utilizes systems that stretch the reach and effectiveness of each and every Trooper. There is, however, a limit to our effectiveness at today's Trooper strength levels. The number of Troopers has dwindled to a dangerously low level, and action is needed in the 2011 legislative session.
It is not uncommon these days for one Trooper to be responsible for covering a three-to-four county area. The coverage area increases during evening shifts or when there is a special event requiring State Patrol resources. During the most recent winter storm, troopers handled nearly 2,543 emergency calls and investigated 64 personal injury and property-related accidents in a two-day period. Given existing Trooper levels, the State Patrol was stretched to respond in a timely manner to everyone needing help in poor winter conditions.
The Iowa State Troopers Association hopes to work with Governor-elect Branstad and legislative leaders on a specific two-pronged strategy to ensure Iowan's safety on the road:
Working to secure funding for 45 Troopers that were paid for by one-time federal stimulus dollars in the last state fiscal year. Given the present strength levels, it is absolutely imperative we keep these 45 Troopers on the road.
Starting a planned, and reasonable, program to rebuild Trooper strength to 455, a level we last saw in the 2000 budget year. This can be accomplished by adding 20 new Troopers per year for the next four years. Taking into account retirements and separations, Director of Public Safety Meyers has indicated the number may need to be closer to 30-35 per year for a period of eight years.
While there are no easy answers for Iowa's budget challenges, we have been encouraged by comments from Governor-elect Branstad and other elected officials about the priority of public safety. As the 2011 legislative session begins in earnest, we look forward to working together to determine the best options to fund these shared priorities.
Working together, we can ensure that Iowa's roadways are the safest in the nation. That has been, and will continue to be, the most important mission of your Iowa State Troopers.
Darin M. Snedden
President, Iowa State Troopers Association