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.