State Patrol deficiency
Trooper numbers continue steady statewide decline since 2000
The number of state patrolmen in Iowa has been on a steady decline since 2000 with approximately 100 fewer active members statewide. The District 6 patrol area, which includes Clay County and seven other counties, has decreased from 21 total active members in 1995 to 17 at the start of 2017.
Iowa State Patrol Lt. Mark Miller of District 6 said his district has 13 troopers dedicated to the roads. In addition, there are three sergeants who maintain duties for the headquarters as well as run patrols.
“Three of those troopers belong to the tactical unit and get called away for training once a month. Another is a hostage negotiator who gets called off for training. Take that few men and all their specialties, it hurts our manpower,” Miller said.
One of the major contributors to the shortage of Iowa State Patrol staff, according to Miller, is the tightening budget which has led to fewer new recruits. Miller explained the academy classes were large in the 1980s, but as the state budget tightened, fewer applicants went through the process.
“With all the men who came in at once, there are now a lot hitting that 30-year mark, and some are retiring. Our three sergeants are retiring. One at the end of the week, one in April and one in March. Losing them will hurt our manpower,” Miller explained.
Sen. David Johnson, I-Ocheyedan, agrees that the shrinking number of patrolmen is tied to spending cuts and retirements. He believes the low number of patrolmen in the state is an unacceptable situation.
“(The solution) can’t just happen overnight, what with slowing state revenues affecting most all of state government,” Johnson said.
He also expressed his concern for getting the budget on track for this particular part of law enforcement.
“When the state Legislature is tightening the budget, it seems that public safety and mental health get squeezed the most,” Johnson explained.
Rep. Megan Jones, R-Sioux Rapids, agrees that the decline of patrolmen in the state is an issue but insists that the information be taken with a grain of salt. She stated the leadership ratio is 3-to-1 in the Iowa State Patrol department and with promotions come salary increases.
“When we compare law enforcement, the reason we have less patrolmen is because we keep promoting,” Jones said.
Miller, Johnson and Jones agreed that budgeting is a major concern for the Iowa State Patrol. They also agreed it is imperative to get the patrolmen back on the roads in larger numbers to keep the population safe.
“When people see less and less of us, they are more likely to break the laws because they’re not used to seeing us. The less of us out there to respond makes it more difficult to help with local agencies when they have high risk situations,” Miller said.