State trooper numbers
BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE GARY WORTHAN
District 11, R-Storm Lake
Chairman of the Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee
As a state legislator, I take my role balancing the budget and wisely using taxpayer money very seriously. Investing their hard earned money in services that directly help and protect Iowans is one of the most important things we need to do in the Iowa Legislature.
Recent accidents across Iowa’s interstates have underscored the critically low state trooper levels, along with the distance and response time it takes for an on-duty officer to arrive at the scene of an accident. A few weeks ago, a tragic accident on Interstate 80 proved to be a case study for distance and response time. The nearest on-duty troopers were already assisting previous accidents, and the next closest trooper in that district was 115 miles away by the Missouri border. All in all, it took approximately three hours to get eight troopers on the scene to assist in the investigation and cleanup. While the response time did not have an effect on the tragic outcome of that accident, what about next time? How long might it take for a trooper to get to you if you’re in an accident?
Current state trooper staffing levels means one trooper is often covering multiple counties at once, making distance a large factor in response time. Winter weather driving conditions also play a role in a trooper’s ability to quickly maneuver long distance on Iowa roads.
While trooper numbers have decreased, other metrics have unfortunately increased. Today, there is one trooper on the road for every 8,426 drivers. Seven years ago, that ratio was one trooper for every 6,333 drivers in the state. In addition, there have been 17,600 fewer speed citations issued than four years ago but 6,617 more crashes. Sadly, there are also 54 more deaths resulting from crashes than just two years ago.
In order to ensure 24/7 coverage in every Iowa county, adequate response time for accidents and to reverse these troubling trends, we simply need more state troopers on the road.
A 2013 Police Allocation Model (PAM), completed by objective third-party Northwestern University, determined the Iowa State Patrol recommended force level should be 450. As of December 2016, there are 259 road troopers and a total workforce of 352 at the Iowa State Patrol. Approximately 95 new troopers would get us to the PAM goal. No one appreciates the current budget constraints more than I do, but we need a strategic and methodical plan for getting numbers closer to where they need to be.
My primary goal this session is to work with my colleagues in the House and the Senate, in cooperation with the Governor’s office to put in place a multi-year plan to return the strength of the Highway Patrol to a level that will serve as a deterrent to unsafe driving and support acceptable response times to incidents. Increasing the number and visibility of troopers on our highways will also affect the level of trafficking of both humans and drugs on our interstate corridors.
Time and time again, I hear from my constituents that they just don’t see the troopers out and about like they used to. If you believe, as I do, that is the case you need to contact your legislators and let them know of your concern.
The men and women of our state law enforcement put their lives on the line for us each and every day. It’s time we show them our thanks by giving them the support and resources they need to keep Iowa roads safe.
These weekly legislative newsletters are published as a public service by The Storm Lake Times.