State Police staffing now at ‘severe levels,’ Patrick officials say
BROCKTON — Launching a new State Police class in October would add 150 troopers to a force that has lost about 400 officers over the past five years.
Patrick administration officials testifying at budget hearings in Brockton said there are about 2,100 State Police officers now, down from more than 2,500 in 2006.
“We are down to some really severe levels,’’ said Mary Beth Heffernan, secretary of public safety. “We are at the point right now where it’s a problem and we need to get a class on.’’
Patrick administration officials said the plans are contingent on the receipt of appropriations from the Legislature. Patrick, in his budget plan unveiled last month, proposed a $2.50 to $2.70 surcharge on auto insurance policies to fund a new class of State Police cadets.
Administration officials expect as many as 200 more troopers to retire by the end of the current fiscal year.
At the hearing, Heffernan, while defending the administration’s plans to close a pair of prisons, said the administration is also eyeing plans for a new class of correction officers this spring.
Heffernan said the administration has also looked consistently at the idea of consolidating the State Police and MBTA police forces.
“It would not be a savings, no. We’ve looked at that proposal many times,’’ Heffernan said. She called it “too expensive to think about right now.’’
Heffernan, asked about the prison closures, again declined to specify which ones, saying it remained subject to discussion.
“I don’t mean to be glib at all. That’s not my intention,’’ she said.
Heffernan and a team of top state public safety officials faced light questioning from House and Senate Ways and Means Committee members about the Patrick administration’s extensive plans to overhaul probation and parole, sentencing laws, and supervision of inmates following their release from prisons and jails.
Heffernan described the state’s system of supervising inmates upon release as “bifurcated’’ and “fragmented.’’