• Area will get three new OSP troopers

    But two of them will just replace troopers who've been transferred
  • Three new Oregon State Police troopers are heading our way, but don't expect the fresh recruits to increase the highway patrol's presence in Southern Oregon.
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  • Three new Oregon State Police troopers are heading our way, but don't expect the fresh recruits to increase the highway patrol's presence in Southern Oregon.
    Two of the new recruits will fill open slots left by troopers who have recently transferred to assignments in other parts of the state, OSP Lt. Kelly Collins said.
    "We are happy to have them, but it still won't bring us anywhere near full strength," Collins said.
    The Central Point office will receive one trooper, while the Grants Pass center will get the other two, OSP said in a news release.
    Local OSP troopers have struggled to keep up with increased demands on their time as the Josephine County's sheriff's department has been all but eliminated by drastic budget cuts, effectively ending its patrols.
    The Central Point headquarters also has experienced cutbacks in trooper numbers in recent years. The office is allotted 24 troopers, but has not had that many stationed there for several years, Collins said.
    The new recruit will bring the Central Point office's trooper count to 16, Collins said
    "It's pretty lean down here compared to past years," he said.
    The Grants Pass office will run with 11 troopers, who will be responsible for covering an area of several thousand square miles without the help of a sheriff's department.
    At one point the Grants Pass office was staffed with 18 troopers, Collins said.
    The Josephine County Sheriff's Department cut its budget last year after the defeat of a public safety levy. The department no longer patrols day and night, and jail space has been drastically reduced to 60 beds, half of which are reserved for federal prisoners.
    That led to OSP troopers from the Central Point office being reassigned to conduct operations in Josephine County to provide backup.
    The new troopers won't see the road for several months, as they are headed to the state's only academy in Salem. After that, the troopers will ride with a seasoned trooper during a field training process.
    Collins said the new troopers won't see solo patrols until early next year.
    "That's if they make it through all the training," Collins said. "It's a lot to pick up, but we've always had good success with our recruits."
    The local OSP offices expect to remain busy responding to violent crime calls in Josephine County, Collins said.
    "Nothing has changed in (Josephine County)," he said.
    The Associated Press has previously reported that the Legislature passed a bill allowing timber counties such as Josephine County to raise money in ways other than voter-approved property taxes.
    House Bill 3453 would grant the governor the power to declare a public safety emergency in financially troubled counties and allow them to impose an income tax that would pay for emergency services. The state would then bear half the costs of funding sheriff's patrols, the AP reported.
    Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.
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