Oklahoma state troopers will drive less and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol's aircraft will be grounded more often under new budget cuts announced Tuesday by the state Department of Public Safety.
DPS announced they will be implementing additional cost-saving measures to make up for a budget shortfall for FY17.
Effective Dec. 1, Troopers will have a daily 100-mile restriction on OHP patrol cars. OHP aircraft flying hours will be reduced and some dispatch operations will be altered between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
This round of cost-saving reductions are in addition to previously announced measures for FY17 that include: Not hiring any State Troopers in 2017, no expansion of the 800 MHZ radio system, not filling vital positions such as driver licenses examiners, and the loss of 32 critical employees to the VOBO offer earlier in 2016.
DPS Commissioner Michael C. Thompson stated, “I am asking for the patience and understanding of the public. These cuts are difficult but necessary in order for DPS to make it through FY2017. I am very optimistic that the upcoming legislative session will address the budget needs of public safety, a core function of government, to allow DPS and the OHP to meet the needs of the people of Oklahoma. It is imperative that we fix this.”
The OHP currently has 805 Troopers assigned statewide, responsible for patrolling nearly 112,000 miles of roadway, serving a population of nearly 4 million people and a myriad of other responsibilities that includes but not limited to: Bomb Squad operations, CMV enforcement, Marine Enforcement and protecting the Oklahoma State Capitol. The 4 million population does not include people who travel through the state of Oklahoma or visit, legally or otherwise.
OHP Chief Ricky G. Adams added, “The public is going to have to understand it will take a Trooper longer to get to them when they call if it isn’t an emergency. I hope this budget situation can be resolved quickly because Troopers play such a critical role in protecting the public. It shouldn’t take a national event like the Michael Vance manhunt to remind everyone how important Troopers are to the safety of Oklahoma. I hate to think what may have happened if Troopers were not there when Vance decided to violently confront the police with an assault rifle.”
Thompson concluded, “Troopers risk their lives every single day for the people of Oklahoma. There is no doubt that DPS and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol are a core function of state government. I will do a better job of conveying that message in the upcoming legislative session.”