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OSP's detectives are withdrawnfrom drug cases

Although few detectives lost their jobs in Southern Oregon because of state budget cuts, Oregon State Police is out of drug investigations in the region.

The agency has pulled detectives from narcotics task forces in Josephine, Douglas and Klamath counties. Vacant positions on teams in Jackson and Coos counties will not be filled, said OSP Lt. Kurt Barthel. Stationed in Central Point, the agency's only drug dog in the state and the dog's handler are no longer assigned to narcotics cases, Barthel said.

The agency's seven detectives paid through the state's general fund now will focus solely on violent crime, child sex abuse and cases that involve other police jurisdictions, Barthel said. They also will continue helping fellow police agencies with homicide and major assault investigations, Barthel added.

We need to think in terms of assistance to other agencies in addition to assistance to the public, Barthel said.

Police officials around the county tout OSP detectives and the agency's crime lab specialists as integral players in major investigations.

No investigators in Central Point lost their jobs or were forced to return to the patrol division last month, Barthel said. Four detective positions in Klamath Falls, Roseburg and Coos Bay were eliminated as a result of state budget cuts, he added.

The Legislature last month reinstated 40 OSP trooper positions around the state and restored crime lab services with more than &

36;1 million in emergency funding. However, 89 troopers around the state lost their jobs.

If further cuts come in the next budget session, the region's detectives most likely will work strictly from OSP's Central Point office, investigating crimes in Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Douglas, Coos and Curry counties.

Six of seven OSP detectives in Central Point were on the chopping block last month to salvage road patrols, the agency's most highly visible service. But as budget planning progressed, officials reduced other divisions within OSP, sparing the criminal division from bearing the brunt of the agency's cuts, Barthel said.

There's been no clear indication what OSP's budget will be in the next biennium, which starts in July, said OSP Capt. Eric Rodriguez. Yet the governor has recommended maintaining OSP's current number of troopers, he said.

We feel like we have money from now to July, but beyond July ... I can't tell you what's going to happen.

We're doing the best we can with the resources we have today.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail .