Proration's potential impact on Alabama Marine Police

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email

Elmore County, AL (WSFA) --For Matt Brooks and his crew of two marine police officers, it has always been tough patrolling Lake Martin which covers 40,000 acres and touches 3 counties.

Today, Captain Brooks' job just got a bit more difficult and that worries him.

"The best we can do is to pull officers off the other lakes but then you would leave those posts open," Brooks said.

Under a hiring freeze for some time now, the marine police division falls under the Alabama Department of Conservation. It will be up to that department to determine what to cut if anything when the governor's proration takes effect. Governor Robert Bentley formally declared those cuts today, saying the state is short by more than $100 million in the general fund budget.

For the marine police that could mean the continued freeze on hiring, mandatory furloughs.. even worse.. layoffs.

And without any visible presence on the water, Captain Brooks can only imagine some boaters will take advantage of the situation, take more risks, drink more alcohol.

"You would think if's there more of us, they would be less inclined to take chances," Brooks said.

So far in 2011 4 people have died on the water. One at Lake Martin, two on the Alabama River and one on the Warrior River.

Brooks says in theory those deaths could have been prevented if there had been more officers on the water.

Captain Brooks isn't pointing fingers and makes it clear he understands these are trying times economically.

He just wishes there were another way to navigate through the budget crisis.

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