Keeping Troopers Available in W.Va.

Jan Cahill will step into something of a hornet’s nest when he becomes superintendent of West Virginia State Police next week. During a time when the substance abuse crisis is taxing the resources of law enforcement agencies at every level, Cahill will be asked to do more with less.

Gov.-elect Jim Justice, set to be inaugurated on Monday, revealed a few days ago that he has picked Cahill to head the State Police. He will replace Col. Jay Smithers.

Cahill appears to have just the right mix of experience to handle the job. He spent 23 years in the State Police, rising to various leadership jobs including commander of the Drug Task Force. He has been elected sheriff of Greenbrier County twice.

It is no exaggeration to note that the State Police are, in many ways, one of the most important arms of state government. They are a critical segment of the thin line of law enforcement troopers, officers and deputies who hold criminals at bay.

Budget constraints have forced the State Police to cut back on operations, however. Detachments in Hundred and Elizabeth have been closed entirely. There have been reports of shortages of troopers at some other locations.

During fiscal 2016, the State Police budget totaled $100.6 million. For this year, the budget is $96.7 million, including a $1.75 million reduction in the line item for personnel.

Many Mountain State families and businesses have had to make do with less during recent years. To many of them, a 4 percent spending cut would not seem drastic.

That is how Cahill should approach the challenge. He should go over State Police operations with a fine-toothed comb, finding ways to maximize efficiency, reduce waste, and prioritize operations. Keeping as many troopers on the job as possible should be viewed as a top priority.

Cahill’s fresh set of eyes should not be looking for the same old bureaucratic answers to budget cuts. They amount to telling taxpayers that we will be punished for demanding from government the same type of austerity most of us have been practicing for years.