Troopers are pooped - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Troopers are pooped

August 18, 2006

Albany ---  Georgia's top two law enforcement agencies are suffering from a critical shortage of officers. Low pay and long hours are forcing GBI Agents and Georgia State Troopers to opt for higher-paying local and federal jobs. And it's making life tough on those who stay in the state jobs.  

Senior Trooper Darryl Benton has worked for the State Patrol for 13 years. "Most of the troopers throughout the state of Georgia do the job because they love the job itself. Putting our lives on the line for the state, for the citizens of the state is part of what we took an oath to do to begin with."

But he's seen a lot of changes over the years. "In the past ten years, we've lost about six troopers here at this post locally. Several years ago, we had almost 12 on staff, as far as troopers are concerned. Now we're down to only six." Six troopers to patrol four counties.

In the past few years the shortage has become more prevalent. Troopers, as well as radio operators and other state employees in general, are leaving the department for better pay, of course, and with the cost of living going higher and higher, it makes it hard to sustain a basis of living.

And harder to sustain a level of security. "It makes it harder and a little more unsafe for the troopers to be out here on the road by themselves."

But Trooper Benton is here to stay, regardless of the dangers. "No traffic stop is a routine traffic stop. They're all high risk stops." And regardless of the pay. "We try and do the best we can, with what we have, but with pay being an issue, as well as equipment, it makes it hard sometimes."

"It doesn't give them the type of protection they deserve. We're trying to do the best with what we have and we just want citizens and everyone to know that we're not going to slack up even though we may be falling short as far as staff is concerned."

But they won't fall short on service. Don't worry. They'll keep the blue lights on for you. The new state budget calls for three to seven percent pay raises, but troopers won't receive them until January. And even then, not all troopers will get the raises. It depends on their tenure and classification.

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