The Idaho State Police is requesting more state troopers next year to better cover the state, among other requests in its budget. Gov. Butch Otter is recommending a 12.4 percent increase in state funding for ISP next year, including six more troopers and one sergeant; the department’s original request was for a 24.8 percent increase next year, including 16 more troopers and a sergeant.
“At ISP, we are in the business of changing and saving lives,” new Director Kedrick Wills told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning. Citizens, he said, “expect excellent public service and professionalism from our organization.”
ISP requested new resident troopers for six rural location around the state: Plummer, Kamiah/Kooskia, Between Mountain Home and Jerome, Carey/Fairfield, and Island Park, along with an additional sergeant in Coeur d’Alene. Wills said those positions “will target areas throughout the state that have longer than normal response times.” The agency also requested 10 new motorcycle patrol officers for the state’s urban areas, a request Otter didn’t include in his budget proposal.
ISP also requested six additional investigation officers; Otter didn’t recommend that request. He did, however, go along with the department’s request to add an additional executive protection officer to ensure that the governor and first lady are “properly accompanied to all state events that they attend, pursuant to secret service training standards,” according to budget documents.
Otter also recommended adding three forensic scientists next year, to keep up with caseloads; a fleet installation technician; and a Bureau of Criminal Investigations supervisor. In all, ISP requested 32 additional positions next year; Otter recommended 12.
Wills told JFAC that part of the need for the new scientists is driven by Idaho’s new laws requiring tracking of sexual assault kits statewide. He paid tribute to Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, for her “tireless work” to get that legislation passed, and said as a result, Idaho is the first state to implement tracking of those evidence kits statewide. Sixteen other states have inquired about Idaho’s system, he said.
“ISP computer programmers built the software in-house to track these kits, saving valuable Idaho taxpayer dollars,” Wills said. “It is a testament to the high level of competence our computer programmers possess.”
He thanked lawmakers for approving improvements to the agency’s pay structure last year, and said the starting wage for troopers has risen by 60 cents per hour as a result.
Wills said ISP is seeing “large increases in calls for service” across all ISP programs.
One position that was added last year, a trooper to staff boat inspection stations, wasn’t hired; ISP concluded it would be cheaper to fill that position through overtime pay, because it’s a seasonal position.
Otter’s budget proposal for ISP for next year also includes $4.45 million in replacement items, from ballistic helmets and shields to vehicles to portable radios to naloxone, an antidote for fentanyl overdoses.
The Idaho Racing Commission, a division of the ISP, reported to JFAC that it’s down to a single state employee and has few resources left, now that the state’s largest racetrack, Les Bois Park near Boise, has closed. “But if you go to any of the other racetracks, racing in Idaho is alive and well,” said Ardie Noyes, business operations manager for the Racing Commission, offering Rupert and Idaho Falls as examples. Noyes said the commission regulates nine horse racing tracks and three simulcast facilities; seven of the nine tracks held live race meets in calendar year 2017.
She said, “One of the things that’s very important to us in the racing industry is that all of the states that surround us all have some other form of gaming – Washington, Oregon, and of course Nevada. So without some other form of revenue coming from gaming, it’s going to be very difficult. Those states are all doing very well, and we lose a lot of our horsemen to those states.”
She also reported that per capita horse ownership in Idaho is among the highest in the world. “Idaho is real horse country,” she said.