State adding 210 troopers to highways

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 20, 2002

In the not-so-distant future, Alabama drivers should have reason to feel safer on state roadways.

By the end of next year, the state will hire an additional 210 troopers, substantially raising the number of patrol officers on the state highways.

Gov. Don Siegelman made the announcement on Wednesday.

Approximately 75 of the troopers will be paid for with a $5.6 million grant provide by the U.S. Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Program.

The new troopers will be especially assigned to perennial trouble spots in the state, such as the 23-mile stretch of Interstate 20 from Leeds through St. Clair County which is often referred to as "Death Valley," due to the frequent number of fatal accidents at that stretch, particularly during the last year or so.

"(The additional troopers) will be targeting drunk, reckless and speeding drivers and those who behave erratically on our interstates," said Siegelman.

Department of Public Safety Director Col. Jim Alexander said that as of Sept. 1,

the department had 629 arresting officers, so adding 210 officers would increase the total number of officers to 839, which is an increase of 33 percent.

Some 45 recruits are in training who will be on the road in December, and the department has 90 new troopers budgeted for next year, with a new class scheduled in January, according to Alexander.

Along with the 75 officers to be paid for with federal funds, wages for 135 troopers will come from fee increases

to reinstate suspended or revoked driver's licenses.

The fee increases approved by the Legislature last year are expected to generate about $8.5 million a year.

The governor said he is currently proposing legislation that would raise the salaries of all state law enforcement personnel and bring trooper salaries up to the national average.

Sgt. Marty Griffin of the Alabama State Trooper post in Evergreen said the news was definitely good news for all troopers who look to enforce traffic rules on the highways.

"(The announcement) is good news and I think it is a very good thing," said Griffin. "We have been hopeful about (the addition of more troopers). It will help us, though, in our overall law enforcement and in our ability to respond to citizens."

Griffin said the new troopers will be helpful in the overall daily campaign to keep the roadways orderly and safe.

"We do not really have a critical shortage of troopers at any certain time of day or anything, but we are just really trying to address the overall shortage (of troopers)," said Griffin.