Leave troopers alone

Government has only a handful of legitimate responsibilities; providing for public safety is one of them – a big one – but you would not know that in Alaska.

The director of the Alaska State Troopers, Col. Jim Cockrell, says budget-cutting is pushing his over-stretched agency to the very brink.

“It wouldn’t take much to push us over,” he told KTVA. “We’re that critical right now when it comes to the amount of resources we have.”

With more than $10 million in cuts already in the last two years, AST is down 32 positions, he says, and the cuts have forced closure of several trooper posts during, including the one in Girdwood, and more recently, Haines.

Without competitive wages, the AST is becoming a training ground for other departments, Cockrell says, and it is hurting retention and recruitment. While training academies once attracted 1,200 to 1,800 applicants, the last one only drew about 230 applications, KTVA reports.

At a time when Alaska routinely is criticized for its lack of law enforcement presence in rural communities where sexual assaults and violence occur far too often, and drugs and domestic violence rates are soaring in places such as the Mat-Su Borough – where there are six troopers to cover an area the size of West Virginia – you have to wonder why lawmakers would even consider cutting back the troopers.

Having troopers spread that far apart is dangerous not only for the officers, but for the public. The cuts already have gone much too far.

The Legislature, trying to close a more-than-$3 billion budget gap, understandably is looking everywhere for savings, but when it comes to the troopers, it should find cuts someplace else. In fact, in our view, it should restore much of the money it already has cut.

Perhaps it should look to spending in areas where government really has no business or responsibility. Goodness knows, there are plenty of them. They could start with Gov. Bill Walker’s gas line.


2 Responses to Leave troopers alone

  1. Morrigan March 18, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Enough is enough!

    KTVA’s Daniella Rivera reported on March 14: “Col. Jim Cockrell, the director of Alaska State Troopers, says on May 1, they won’t be providing any regular patrols on the 36-mile stretch of one of Alaska’s deadliest roadways.”.

    A senior police official just declared his employees will no longer perform their sworn duty.

    One might argue this official just ordered an illegal public-safety officers’ strike.

    For that reason alone, it is time for a big change, starting at the top.

    It is time to defund top management positions (because people in them can’t or won’t be fired) and transfer their responsibilities (and pay) to subordinates who still have the integrity to do what they were sworn to do.

    It is time for a management audit of Alaska State Troopers to find out where the money actually goes, and why, all of a sudden, at budget time, there seems to be a law-enforcement crisis.

    Facts may indeed reveal that all Alaska State Troopers need is more money.

    But a de facto strike is damned sure not the way –or should not be the way– to get it.

  2. Observer March 19, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    I hate to be contrarian on such an issue but I do not see where the State of Alaska, through the Alaska State Troopers, provides much, if any, services to many Alaskans. In fact, almost all law enforcement in Anchorage – with slight exceptions like Girdwood – is provided by the Anchorage Police Department. APD is funded entirely by the taxpayers of Anchorage, save for a federal grant or two.

    Times are tough for the Troopers but budget cuts to Troopers will not have much effect on large numbers of voters. If the Troopers want to be viewed as a statewide law enforcement agency, they should think about providing services to everyone.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For information, sizing, and rates of banner advertising space we have available, please e-mail Mark Hopkin at markh@porcaro.me, or call him at (907) 276-4262.