Originally created 11/23/05

Budget calls for 320 new officers



COLUMBIA - Gov. Mark Sanford announced Tuesday that he wants to beef up the state's law enforcement numbers with 320 new personnel, including 100 state troopers and 41 corrections officers.

At the Highway Patrol's Florence office, the governor said his 2006 executive budget request will include an additional $24.4 million in recurring law enforcement spending, and an additional $40.5 million for expenditures such as facilities and maintenance.

"Budget cuts in years past have left us with too few troopers on the road and a prison system with more inmates and fewer guards," Mr. Sanford said in a news release. "There are some very real needs that exist out there, and we have to prioritize our spending in the coming year to make sure those needs are met."

Public Safety Director James Schweitzer said efforts such as enforcement of the statewide primary seat belt law, which goes into effect Dec. 9, require having more troopers on the roads. The state had 805 troopers as of Nov. 15.

Mr. Schweitzer said the department also has requested 25 additional state transport police officers - who enforce the state's trucking regulations - and five Bureau of Protective Services officers. Slightly more than $5 million in recurring funds requested would go toward the 130 new salaries, he said, while another one-time request would pay for new vehicles and equipment.

"We've come through some lean years, and the governor has placed an emphasis on public safety," Mr. Schweitzer said.

Overloaded probation officers and rising sex offender numbers have led the Department of Juvenile Justice to request additional funds. Director Bill Byars said his agency needs 42 new probation officers to handle the department's most difficult cases.

Agency consultant Sylvia Kitchens said the department has about 235 probation officers statewide, each of whom maintains 50 to 100 cases. The recommended average case load, Mr. Byars said, is 35 per officer.

Ms. Kitchens said the agency is seeking $5.2 million in recurring funds and a one-time allotment of $138,000.

The portion of the request flagged for the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services would fund the implementation of the state's new sex offender monitoring law, said spokesman Peter O'Boyle.