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Eye On Boise

ISP: More troopers needed to patrol state’s roads

Col. Ralph Powell, director of the Idaho State Police, makes his budget pitch to state lawmakers on Tuesday (Betsy Russell)
Col. Ralph Powell, director of the Idaho State Police, makes his budget pitch to state lawmakers on Tuesday (Betsy Russell)

The Idaho State Police requested 21 new officers next year – 15 for patrol and six investigators. Gov. Butch Otter is recommending just six, all for patrol. “ISP is not able to provide consistent 24-hour patrol coverage on our state’s highways and interstates,” ISP Director Col. Ralph Powell told JFAC on Tuesday. “This may be contrary to what the public believes, and expects, when stranded on a rural highway in the middle of the night, or when a family member has been in a crash and needs immediate help. Our citizens deserve more peace of mind and quicker emergency response when seconds truly matter.”

A study completed in 2007 and updated in 2011 concluded that the ISP needs more than 90 additional troopers to provide adequate statewide patrol coverage; Powell said that’s clearly not going to happen any time soon. But he said the six the governor’s recommending for next year will help. ISP troopers investigated more than 6,100 crashes on Idaho roads last year, he said. “It is our belief that an increase in patrols and greater visibility on the highways would reduce that number.”

In the last year, ISP troopers made more than 3,100 felony and misdemeanor arrests, including about 1,300 for driving under the influence. They issued nearly 67,000 citations, and assisted 23,000 motorists. The ISP also seized 738 pounds of marijuana, 30 syringes of hash oil, 3.71 pounds of methamphetamine, 5.48 ounces of cocaine and 99.7 grams of heroin.

Overall, ISP requested a 21 percent increase in state funding next year; Otter is recommending a 10.8 percent boost. At the close of Tuesday morning's presentation, Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, looked out at the audience in the JFAC room that included a fair number of uniformed ISP officers, and told Powell, "Thank you and all who came with you." Amid laughter, she said, "It looks like a good day to be on the highways."

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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