Iowa State Trooper Totals Are Thinning - KWQC-TV6 News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Iowa State Trooper Totals Are Thinning

Updated: Jan 10, 2010 10:04 PM

Trooper numbers in the state of Iowa are dwindling. Budget cuts across the board have forced many forces across the state to slim down, meaning less enforcement and help for drivers out on the roads. Right now, the Iowa State Patrol is at its fewest number of troopers since the 1960's, with 379 uniformed officers. That is down from 450 less than 10 years ago. Now there's more work for officers that are on the roads, and for some drivers, a little less comfort in their safety.

"You have a huge public safety issue," said Iowa Senator, Shawn Hamerlinck.

Drivers out on Iowa roads say the lack of patrol on Iowa highways and interstates is noticeable. "I don't really see that many state troopers driving on I-80 going to school in Iowa ever really," said Patrick Griffin, a University of Iowa student.

That is, in part, because the Iowa state patrol is down to 379 uniformed officers, its lowest in 46 years. After getting hit with numerous budget cuts some districts are left stretched thin.

"Essentially you have a population increase since the 1960's, you have a decrease in the number of state troopers who are available," said Senator Hamerlinck.

"From midnight to 6:30 a.m. two cars are out in a 6-county area," said Trooper Rob Battles. What that means: During the overnight hours there is no trooper on duty in a majority of the 14 field districts.

That finding concerns drivers, especially during the winter months when the road conditions are at their worst. "I know a couple of friends that have definitely had some car trouble coming home from school during these storms, this year especially. So it's kind of scary to think about being stranded out in the cold for so long with out anyone to come help you," added Griffin.

"I don't foresee it getting too bad because we have really good patrolmen. But I would hate to see it get any lower," said Rick Reeves.

Now, Governor Culver is asking lawmakers to change how the state patrol is funded. Right now the money primarily comes from the state's general fund. Culver wants to divert up to $50 million annually from Iowa's road work funds, but some groups oppose the idea. "We're essentially passing off that responsibility or passing the buck downhill and it's going to hurt the roads and maintenance on them in the long run," added Senator Hamerlinck.

The state patrol funds are among a number of issues lawmakers are set to tackle in the coming weeks. They'll start Monday when the Iowa Senate reconvenes.