Fewer state troopers will be patrolling Georgia roads beginning Saturday as the State Patrol beings furloughs that could take each patrolman off their assignment two days a month for the rest of the year.
The small agency — like all state agencies — has had to cut spending as Georgia’s finances have worsened.
While the governor has not approved the Department of Public Safety’s plan for twice-a-month furloughs, Commissioner Bill Hitchens says he has already told troopers they most likely will lose almost 10 percent of their pay starting this month. That also means the agency will reduce patrol deployments.
Some patrol posts are responsible for 15 to two dozen counties but have as few as eight troopers to provide 24-hour coverage.
To compensate for that shortage, for the past two years there have been no troopers driving most of Georgia’s 20,000 miles of roads and interstates in the early morning hours. Twenty of the state’s 48 patrol posts close between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. and don’t reopen until 7 a.m., leaving only an operator to take emergency calls and to rouse an on-call trooper from bed to respond.
“All of this isn’t finalized,” Hitchens, said about the proposal to furlough each trooper two days a month.
Troopers, who earned about $35,000 a year before the cuts, not only patrol rural highways and help with other law enforcement duties in those areas, they also watch for speeding and respond to accidents on interstates around major cities, including the Downtown Connector through Atlanta.
They provide traffic control for large events such as races, fairs and football games as well as security at Georgia and Georgia Tech football games.
“We’re looking at everything,” Hitchens said in an interview Saturday when asked about those special events that sometimes require troopers to travel across the state to work, adding the cost of food and hotels to the expense.
Article by Rhonda Cook, AJC.com
Georgia Traffic Laws
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