DES MOINES – When Darin Snedden arrived at Post 11 in 1990 there were 43 Iowa State Patrol troopers covering the six-county area.
Today, there are no more than 24 troopers assigned to the Post 11, which includes Linn and Johnson counties, according to Snedden, a Mount Vernon resident and president of the Iowa State Troopers Association.
The story is the same around the state. Iowa had 455 troopers in 2000. Today, the patrol has 363.
“There’s a critical need for troopers,” Snedden said.
During a Feb. 26 visit to the Statehouse, he wasn’t asking lawmakers and the Governor’s Office Iowa to take his word for it. Instead, Snedden and Jeff Driscoll of Dyersville, vice president of the troopers’ association, referred them to an independent study the association had conducted by the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety. Based on population, area covered, distance traveled and time spent on duties planned and unplanned, the center recommended 82 more troopers.
It would be “an awful big bite” to add 82 troopers, Snedden said. It costs about $149,000 to train and equip a trooper – including a squad car. So the association is proposing the Legislature add 29 troopers a year for the next three years.
“Even that’s a pretty big bite,” House Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Gary Worthan, R-Storm Lake, said about the $4 million-plus cost to put 29 troopers on the road.
Rep. Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, appreciated the troopers qualified the request for 82 troopers, but agreed with Worthan that it will be difficult in the coming budget year.
They’re placing a priority on staffing two new prison facilities as well as adding probation and parole officers and staffing community-based corrections facilities so inmates can be transitioned out of prisons when appropriate.
The attorney general is asking for more staff and there’s a need for more criminalists, Taylor added.
“It all has to fit into the overall Justice Systems budget,” he said.
Worthan believes there is a consensus more troopers are needed, “but we’re looking for budget conditions that make it possible,” Worthan said. Given the Department of Corrections staffing needs, he doesn’t see that in the preliminary 2014 budget numbers.
“But 2015 might be better,” Worthan said.
It might take longer than three years, Taylor said, recalling that a previous plan called for 100 troopers over five years.
“We have to have a slow curve to get to the right staffing levels,” he said.
By the numbers: