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Oklahoma Highway Patrol scales back in wake of budget shortfall

(KXII)
Published: Nov. 30, 2016 at 9:45 PM CST
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ARDMORE, Okla. (KXII)-- Tuesday the Oklahoma Highway Patrol announced that starting December 1, they will be making drastic cuts

to make up for a budget shortfall.

O.H.P helicopters will be grounded except for emergency situations, and dispatch operations will be altered between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. But perhaps the most drastic measure is establishing a daily, 100-mile limit for Troopers on their patrol cars.

OHP Trooper Dwight Durant says he patrolled the highways for two decades, and averaged 160 to 210 miles a day.

"It basically stops any proactive patrolling, or anything other than responding to calls," Durant said. "[Troopers are] not going to be able to go out into county and look for drunk drivers, or look for people who are distracted driving...[they're] going to have to save those miles."

That has motorists like Charles Strader worried.

"I have kids that drive, they're 16 and 17 and 18 years old, so I mean I want them being safe on the road." Strader said.

Especially this time of year.

"We have a holiday season coming up, Christmas, we have New Year's Eve," Motorist Emilio Armijo said. "We're going to have a lot of inebriated people on the road, and we need them off. I don't want to see them on the side of the road waiting for a call."

Durant says there are still 7 months left in the fiscal year, and these cuts will remain in place until the legislature comes up with a solution.

"We're going to continue to do our job. If we get in a pursuit, we're not going to call it off because we're at 98 miles," Durant said. "But if we do get in a pursuit, and it goes 200 miles, well tomorrow we're not going to be able to move."

This follows other cuts made by D.P.S is September, where they decided not to hire any State Troopers in 2017, halted expansion of the 800 MHZ radio system, and buying out more than 30 employees close to retirement.

"“I am asking for the patience and understanding of the public. These cuts are difficult but necessary in order for D.P.S to make it through fiscal year 2017," D.P.S Commissioner Michael C. Thompson stated in an online press release. "I am very optimistic that the upcoming legislative session will address the budget needs of public safety, a core function of government, to allow D.P.S and the O.H.P to meet the needs of the people of Oklahoma. It is imperative that we fix this.”

The press release on social media states that O.H.P has 805 Troopers statewide, and are responsible for patrolling nearly 112,000 miles of roadway.

“Troopers risk their lives every single day for the people of Oklahoma. There is no doubt that D.P.S and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol are a core function of state government," O.H.P Chief Ricky G. Adams stated in the release. "I will do a better job of conveying that message in the upcoming legislative session.”