A 62-page audit released last week shows the state could save more than $1 million annually by cutting the 48 patrol posts in half, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The move would cut administrative jobs and put at least 100 more troopers on the road.
The audit also found that patrol staffing drops significantly after 8 p.m. and on weekends, when most DUI accidents occur. The audit found the patrol has virtually no troopers on the road between midnight and 5 a.m.
Patrol officials say they are taking another look at staffing because of the audit but limited state funding has left them unable to pay for employees 24 hours a day.
It’s also not the first time the state has suggested cutting the number of posts. A 2005 study by the Department of Public Safety recommended decreasing posts to help make 107 more troopers available for patrol and save $1.25 million.
But Col. Mark McDonough, commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety, called the numbers unrealistic and said cutting trooper posts wouldn’t save as much money as the state audit predicts.
“It is a physical location,” McDonough told the newspaper. “It’s the difference between a mailman and the post office. They are talking about closing down post offices, but the mail still has to be delivered.”
And the state would face an uphill battle with lawmakers over closing posts. State auditors acknowledged that it would be so politically difficult that an independent commission should be created to complete the task.
Communities see it as a coup to have a trooper post.
“It’s a prime value for a community to have a post because you’ve got law enforcement right there,” said Rep. Alan Powell, a Republican from Hartwell and a member of the House subcommittee that handles the state patrol’s budget.
Like all departments and agencies, the state patrol has seen budget cuts because of lagging tax revenues. McDonough said he needs 86 more troopers to be able to patrol the state’s roads round the clock.