Dps Backs Off Senseless Shuffle

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Every now and then, you CAN fight City Hall. Especially if you’re, well, City Hall. Recently, the Department of Public Safety quietly made a most peculiar proposal.

The struggling law enforcement agency’s proposal would have split the 54,000 residents of Gila County into no fewer than four administrative units — compared to the current system that keeps the county in a single DPS district.

Local officials like Payson Mayor Kenny Evans and Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin immediately protested, saying the change would cripple efforts to coordinate the response of DPS, the Gila County Sheriff’s Office and local law enforcement. Such cooperation becomes crucial during storms, major highway accidents, manhunts, searches and other emergencies.

DPS never really explained the logic in its reorganization, but implied that dividing the county up among other, existing districts would actually make more manpower available in an emergency.

Local officials didn’t buy that sketchy logic.

Make no mistake, DPS is coping with budget problems. Last year, the agency lost 32 patrol positions and 90 criminal investigation and support positions. The agency has also cut back its helicopter fleet, which will have real, life-threatening impacts in rural Arizona.

As a result, DPS has embraced a painful triage — and responds to half as many calls as it did four or five years ago — mostly by simply dismissing a distressing number of calls as insufficiently serious. DPS has maintained a hiring freeze since 2008 and the Arizona Legislature periodically sweeps any year-end fund surpluses, with which the agency might rebuild. DPS officials say they’re about 180 officers short, compared to the staffing levels in other states.

As just one example, consider what happened when three dangerous criminals recently escaped from a private Kingman jail designed for low-risk prisoners. DPS didn’t have any helicopters to help in the first critical hours of the chase, having cut staffing for its fleet to allow operations only 12 hours a day.

The result — the enormous expense of a long manhunt and the murder of an elderly couple in New Mexico.

So we understand the terrible stress DPS administrators now face in protecting the public on a shrunken budget.

But a senseless shuffling of the Titanic deck chairs will surely do more harm than good. Better to see to the life boats.

Lots of action at Roosevelt

For about 10 days Roosevelt Lake and the Rim Country are at the center of the bass fishing world. Organizers just completed a successful WON tourney which, although it did not attract the numbers of expert fishermen that were expected, was a success.

The turnout of boats for the event, 61, was short of the 100 that tournament director Billy Egan was hoping for, but he said WON would most likely return next year to host another tournament.

This tourney was a prelude to the bigger FLW Everstart event. This is the second 2011 tourney to be organized by the local volunteer committee and hosted at Roosevelt Lake. Some 300 bass fishermen are expected.

The tournament festivities kick off from 6 to 8 p.m. today, Feb. 15, with an “Anglers’ Appreciation Dinner” at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino.

We need to pat the organizers on the back for both tourneys. Many of the same local people are involved in both events, bringing great exposure to the Rim Country. As the WON tourney ends, the FLW starts; that is a lot of work by the volunteers who have spent months organizing the events. The fishing part starts on Thursday, concluding Saturday. We wish all those taking part good luck, especially the locals.

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