Douglas wants troopers reinstated in budget

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says it’s absolutely critical for the Legislature to support his plan to add 10 new state troopers in next year’s budget. Douglas says a recent drug bust in central Vermont involving out of state dealers highlights the need to increase the size of the state police force.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Douglas made it very clear to reporters at a Statehouse press conference that additional troopers are needed to reduce serious drug use in Vermont. Douglas proposed six new positions in this year’s supplemental budget and 10 new troopers in next year’s budget.

The House Appropriations Committee supported the six additional troopers for this year but it’s cut in half Douglas’ request for 10 troopers for next year. Douglas says that reduction is unacceptable:

(Douglas) “In a time of heightened security and elevated risk to our residents, as well as a growing drug problem, reducing our commitment to public safety as the House has proposed is not responsible public policy and is unacceptable.”

(Kinzel) Public Safety Commissioner Kerry Sleeper says a big drug bust in central Vermont this week demonstrates the need to add 10 new troopers to his force:

(Sleeper) “Vermont continues to be recognized as an easy mark for out of state dealers to sell their drugs. While arrests were made yesterday, tomorrow other members of the groups will travel to Vermont to reestablish the supply chain.”

(Kinzel) House Appropriations Chair Richard Westman says his panel reduced the governor’s request because it wanted to provide more money to the state’s judicial system so that people arrested on serious charges can be effectively prosecuted:

(Westman) “It’s not as simple as just saying, ‘I’m putting a cop on the street.’ You can put a cop on the street and they can pick people up but then if we have no way to get them through the system it doesn’t work.”

(Kinzel) Commissioner Sleeper doesn’t buy that argument because he argues that most drug dealers are charged in the federal court system:

(Sleeper) “Those people are going to be prosecuted federally where they have additional resources and they’re going to be housed in federal penitentiaries. So it’s using one component of the state criminal justice system but then transferring the rest of the responsibilities to the federal system. So there’s very little additional cost.”

(Kinzel) The governor says he hopes the full House will restore money for the additional state troopers when the budget comes up for debate next Monday.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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