Terrorist threats become financial savior for CHP | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Terrorist threats become financial savior for CHP

Jeff Munson, Tribune city editor

Federal Homeland Security mandates may save the California Highway Patrol from drastic cost-cutting measures the governor will ask of most departments to balance its $38 billion budget deficit.

Stopping short of saying the agency that employs 7,000 officers is in the clear from possible layoffs, CHP spokesman Tom Marshall said the likelihood is good the CHP will retain its roll call for the next budget cycle.

“In these times, the governor has been able to protect us from more cuts … because of homeland security,” Marshall said. “At this point we think we will be able to hold the fort and not lay off anybody.”

There is more of a likelihood, however, that cuts could be made to the more than 4,000 civilian positions, Marshall added. In fact, statewide, there are about 300 positions that have been unfilled after Gov. Gray Davis enacted a hiring freeze last year. None of the civilian positions lost through attrition has affected the Meyers office.

“If there’s going to be cuts, I think (the civilian) positions would be more likely than uniform positions,” he said.

As for street cops, the word so far out of Sacramento is good news for the 18 officers, three sergeants and captain working out of Meyers.

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With a coverage area that spans hundreds of miles, from Highway 50 to Twin Bridges, Highway 88 at the Amador County line, Highway 89 to Pickett’s Junction and portions of Highway 4, the local station already has its hands full.

“It’s common knowledge that all (state) departments are being asked for 10 percent (staff) reductions,” said Sgt. Mike Stewart of Tahoe. “Because of the nature of law enforcement, that obviously (needs to be maintained) the budget won’t affect us the same as other agencies.”

While staffing has remained constant for at least two years, South Shore officers have joined the rest of the state’s CHP officers in overtime duties after the nation’s terrorist alert level went to code orange.

For the first two weeks of the war against Iraq, law officers worked 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, chalking nearly double the amount of their normal, 40-hour workweek.

Prior to the war in March, the level was activated to orange two other times, Sept. 11, 2002 and Feb. 7, 2003.

“We put in some long hours, but everyone did their jobs,” Stewart said.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security was created and a color-coded terrorist threat monitor was activated. When the code reaches orange or “high” CHP puts its uniform officers on 12-hour shifts.

— Jeff Munson can be reached a (530) 542-8012 or jmunson@tahoedailytribune.com