Government SPLOST 7 | | | Editor

S.C. trooper response times could slow

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COLUMBIA --- The South Carolina Public Safety Department's director, Mark Keel, says people might notice a slowdown in trooper response time to highway incidents because budget cuts are thinning the ranks.

Keel told The State that 163 fewer troopers are patrolling South Carolina's rural highways and interstates than in 2008 and that there is no money to replace them. More than a third of those troopers left this year for higher-paying jobs at other police agencies, Keel added.

Some small rural counties might have to share a single trooper per shift, and larger counties might have just three troopers patrolling interstates and highways at night.

Last year, the average response time for the highway patrol was 30 minutes. Keel says he expects that will increase this year and could get worse.

Drivers "may sit in traffic longer than they otherwise would," he said. "The roads may not be as safe as if we had more troopers on the road."

To try to fill the gaps, Keel has asked the General Assembly for $5.5 million next year to hire 100 more troopers and $5 million to allow the agency to pay officers it has for more than 100,000 hours in overtime. That would be the equivalent of adding as many as 60 troopers, according to the Public Safety Department's budget request.

But that's a tough sell as state lawmakers try to find more than $800 million to cut from the state's $5 billion budget.

David Latimer, the executive director of the South Carolina Troopers Association, said his group would like to see more troopers, but he says those on the job need a raise.

Keel agrees that pay needs to go up.

"We've had I don't know how many years in state government where we haven't had raises," Keel said. "We've got young troopers out here trying to make a living and raise a family."

In addition to getting no raises, Latimer said, troopers have to pay for dry cleaning their uniforms and getting their cars washed.

"While it's not the end of the world, you're still talking about $700 a year they've lost," Latimer said.

Latimer and Keel say the goal has been to get 1,000 troopers on the road, but even that number isn't ideal. A 2003 analysis of staffing levels found South Carolina should have about 1,200 troopers based on the number of licensed drivers and registered vehicles in the state.

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walrus4ever 11/28/10 - 08:33 pm
Another strong argument for a

Another strong argument for a CWP.

Asitisinaug 11/29/10 - 07:14 am
Government waste in social

Government waste in social programs enabling and rewarding non productive members of society while at the same time failing to fairly pay Public Safety Officers who put their lives on the line each day to protect us or to have enough officers as needed.

bclicious 11/29/10 - 07:19 am
Sign of the times. Proof

Sign of the times. Proof that merely paying your taxes is not enough to fund law enforcement. Don't complain when law enforcement is late.

utefann 11/29/10 - 09:01 am
Are they saying that troopers

Are they saying that troopers will continue giving someone a ticket even if they are being called to a terrible accident? Or better yet are they going to ignore accidents if they are on radar patrol? Just what task will they be involved in that prevents them from reacting to an emergency?

onlysane1left 11/29/10 - 12:55 pm
"Government waste in social

"Government waste in social programs enabling and rewarding non productive members of society while at the same time failing to fairly pay Public Safety Officers who put their lives on the line each day to protect us or to have enough officers as needed."

Whatever, the federal government gives states the money to pay for most "social programs". The state of South Carolina has chosen to spend the money on health care and a failed education system where the "haves" are learning and the "have-nots" aren't......

TeamLoser 11/29/10 - 07:08 pm
Well they still have to write

Well they still have to write those tickets to help their budget and let those troopers keep their jobs.

MistaChuckD 11/29/10 - 07:58 pm
@utefann I believe what is


I believe what is being said is there will be fewer troopers having to cover more area. That's what will slow down response times.

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