Millard County Sheriff Ed Phillips has criticized the Utah Department of Public Safety and the Legislature for a lack of state Highway Patrol troopers, accusing the department of "gross mismanagement."
In a letter to Commissioner Doug Bodrero of the Utah Safety Department, Phillips stated, "The residents of this state and the motoring public that passes through this state deserve better and need much more than they are getting from the state of Utah in regards to highway safety."Copies were sent to Gov. Norm Bangerter; Sen. Cary Peterson, R-Nephi; Rep. Joseph Moody, R-Delta; and sheriffs throughout the state.
While he praised Highway Patrol personnel, the sheriff said they can't do the job that is needed because not enough troopers are available. He noted that troopers are seldom on duty during the night, except for in one or two of the Wasatch Front counties.
In the letter, the sheriff accused the state department of enhancing its division of investigation at the expense of the motoring public by neglecting the Division of Utah Highway Patrol, calling it "gross mismanagement."
Phillips said other sheriffs in the state agree that the investigation division isn't a high priority, adding he hasn't found authority in state statutes for funding such a unit. He questions whether the Legislature "understands what is taking place in creating the new division."
The sheriff said duplication exists in two state-funded SWAT teams, one created by the department of Public Safety and one by the Department of Corrections. Sheriff's departments in Salt Lake and Utah counties also have SWAT teams that can be loaned to other departments, he said.
He also criticized the Department of Safety for hiring a Highway Patrol trooper to manage a motor pool when, he said, a civilian employee could fill that assignment. He urged expansion of the Highway Patrol to put more troopers in rural areas of the state, concluding that the Legislature "should be aware that we're just lagging further and further behind . . . on numbers of Highway Patrol troopers that are needed in the field."
Millard County has had 13 fatalities on its highways this year, although Phillips did not specifically blame a lack of troopers for the high death rate.