The Arizona Department of Public Safety has added two new officers to Rim country coverage, but lost one veteran.
That brings the total to six patrol officers covering from Blue Ridge Reservoir on the Mogollon Rim south to Rye, and from halfway to Camp Verde to the top of the Rim east of Payson.
Gone is Officer Robert Benham; he accepted a training officer position in Phoenix. Added to the local patrol are new recruits Officer Jimmy Oestman and Officer Vern Havens. Both have recently completed field training and complete the six-man squad.
Others on the local team of DPS officers include Officer Bill Murphy, who has been here 12 years; Officer Bernadette Koren, who has been here eight years; Officer Greg LeMoine, who transferred in a year ago; and Officer Al Hodges, who transferred in just four months ago. Sgt. John Whetten oversees the local squad.
The squad is still two short of the mandated eight patrol officers for this area of coverage, but this is a statewide problem and Payson is no longer a priority, Whetten said Monday.
For example, the Roosevelt region to the south of Payson has only four officers and should be at seven, Whetten said. Statewide, Whetten estimates DPS will try to recruit 77 new officers this year.
The Payson station has its fingers crossed for September. That is when another class of cadets graduates and the first chance Whetten will have at gaining at least one new rookie.