COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The State Highway Patrol's new leader plans to continue his predecessor's dual emphasis targeting traffic safety and criminal activity while maintaining the current staffing level and adding resources to help trim the agency's backlog of lab work.
Col. Paul Pride, a former Marine who had served as an assistant superintendent, took the patrol's top job in late July when the previous superintendent, Col. John Born, became director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
Pride said troopers' increased efforts to crack down on crimes such as drunken driving and drug trafficking have led to more stops, more arrests and safer roads, and he wants the organization to continue in that direction. Troopers have made more than 397,000 enforcement stops this year, up from about 377,000 at the same time in 2012, and they've logged double-digit percentage increases in the number of drug violations, weapons violations and felony arrests.
Ohio is on pace for a record-low number of traffic fatalities this year with about 610 verified or unverified deaths so far, compared with roughly 775 fatalities by this time last year. Pride acknowledges that statistic is influenced by various law enforcement and other factors but said the enforcement data show troopers are making a difference.
"The results of what we're seeing now is a clear indication that we have missed a lot in the past because we failed to slow down and ask the right questions," he told The Associated Press. "We're in too big of a hurry to take care of that traffic citation and get back on the road again."
At his ceremonial swearing-in, Pride said he'd ask officers to take care and approach their work as though the people they're trying to protect on any given day were their own relatives.
Their added focus on looking for signs of criminal activity has generated more work for the patrol's crime lab in Columbus, which has made it harder to chip away at a backlog of cases awaiting drug testing there. The backlog, which had climbed to about 4,000 cases in early 2011, has been reduced to about 2,000, Pride said. The patrol is expanding its lab space, streamlining that work and planning to hire more analysts to speed things along, he said.
Statewide, Pride said he wants to maintain staffing at the current level of about 1,600 troopers. He's hopeful that the patrol can train two classes of cadets each year to replace those lost from attrition and other reasons, which is generally about five employees per month. The next class, with about 60 cadets, is slated to start Sept. 18.
Pride said he also wants to strengthen the patrol's partnerships with other law enforcement agencies.
"The bad guy gets away with stuff when we don't cooperate and collaborate," he said.
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