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State trooper cuts seen compromising public safety
By Associated Press, 5/26/2003 20:29

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) The head of the union that represents New Hampshire state troopers says the proposed 9 percent cut of its budget including overtime and holiday pay will compromise public safety.

''What this boils down to is the next time there is a riot at UNH, there may not be troopers to send until maybe tomorrow,'' said Louis Copponi, president of the New Hampshire Troopers Association.

''When the next offender goes to court, he may walk out because there are no funds available to have the trooper who arrested him at midnight to show up on their day off,'' he said.

The cuts, approved by the House and Gov. Craig Benson, are before the Senate.

In 2003, the state police budget was $34 million, while the proposed 2004 budget is $31 million.

Besides dumping overtime and holiday pay, the budget eliminates 18 positions vacant since a hiring freeze was imposed on state employees.

None of the other law-enforcement agencies funded under the Department of Public Safety, saw funding cuts.

Several, including the Division of Motor Vehicles, had increases, including nine new motor vehicle inspectors.

In 2003, state police had 415 employees, while the Division of Motor Vehicles had 227, according to figures compiled by the troopers union.

Under the 2004 proposed budget, DMV has grown to 250 positions, while state police has been reduced to 397.

Often, state police are the first on the scene of calls in small towns where police are not on duty 24 hours a day. ''We're the only agency that works 24 hours a day,'' Copponi said.

''You're asking the state police to be all things to all people and that has to be funded,'' Copponi said.

The public safety budget, including state police cuts, was presented to Benson by Safety Commissioner Richard Flynn. Flynn did not return several phone calls seeking comment during the past week.

Troop commanders declined to comment on how cuts would affect their services, referring all phone calls to State Police Capt. Craig Wiggin, who did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Wiggin said earlier this year that instead of overtime troopers could be given compensatory time for time spent in court. Under the union contract, off-duty troopers who must appear in court are entitled to a minimum of four hours overtime at time-and-a-half pay. That would result in six hours of compensatory time for each court appearance.

However, while state employees are allowed compensatory time, Copponi said the state police contract does not allow such time. The issue is at the center of a pending grievance before the state Public Employees Labor Relations Board.

Some state senators question why the cuts were made. Sen. Burt Cohen, D-New Castle, questioned why cuts to public safety would be made during emphasis on homeland security and increasing police presence nationwide.

''It will adversely affect the carrying out of justice. It's just very unwise,'' he said.

Sen. Jack Barnes, R-Raymond, said the budget is ''a work in progress. There's a long way to go.''
 

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Some state senators question why the cuts were made. Sen. Burt Cohen, D-New Castle, questioned why cuts to public safety would be made during emphasis on homeland security and increasing police presence nationwide.
:shock:

Seems that question needs to be addressed EVERYWHERE!!!
 
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