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Short staff stretching Iowa troopers thin

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- Troopers with the Iowa State Patrol say budget cuts have stretched officers thin.

"Several years back we had probably close to 10 more troopers in our district here than we do now," said Trooper Dan Loussaert.

Loussaert said cuts to the Iowa State Patrol's budget have caused a statewide officer shortage. There are nearly 100 fewer troopers now than there were 15 year ago.

The shortage is taking a toll locally, as well.

"Unfortunately, recently we've had crashes, and one of them was here in our district, a very serious crash, and the closest trooper was over 50 miles away," said Loussaert.

In District 12, roughly 25 troopers cover a six-county area.

Loussaert says the distance can put other officers at risk when back-up is sometimes many miles away.

"When, in certain situations, someone decides not to cooperate and they resist, then it becomes an officer safety issue in a hurry. And when you don't have as many officers, that back-up is a little farther away, and it just puts everybody in danger," said Loussaert.

Loussaert also said many of the district's troopers will be within retirement age within the next five years, so he hopes to see an increase in officers before the problem gets worse.

State Police Officers Council president Trooper Jason Bardsley said he hopes the Iowa Legislature can begin taking steps during its 2017 session to address the shortage.