A legislative review of State Police staffing levels found that response times have increased modestly as the number of troopers has declined.
The Program Review and Investigations Committee is expected review a draft report on the staffing levels of the Connecticut State Police when they meet Tuesday morning.
The investigation was required by legislation passed last year that did away with a largely-ignored law requiring the state to employ at least 1,248 state troopers. In scrapping the requirement, lawmakers required the PRI Committee’s staff to put together a study and offer recommendations for the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to use in determining the appropriate number of troopers.
Among the issues considered by the committee’s staff in the 218-page report is whether it takes state troopers longer to respond to a call if there are less of them on the road. Between 2009 and 2012, trooper staffing levels have declined from an average of around 1,217 to 1,080.
During that time, the median response time for 911 calls has increased by one minute, from nine to 10 minutes. This response rate meets a goal — set by the State Police in 1997 — of responding to at least 50 percent of calls in less than 15 minutes. Police still responded to half of all calls within 10 minutes.
However, the study notes that some police departments set quicker expectations for serious calls like domestic violence and assault. It suggests Connecticut may want to consider setting similar expectations.
A survey of the two State Police troops handling the most domestic violence calls in 2012 found that it took more than a half hour before troopers were on the scene in 14 percent of the calls.
PRI’s staff found several studies pointing to a lack of clear standards in assessing police response times.
“One reason for a lack of national response time standards is that the perception of what is acceptable is impacted by public expectations,” the study said.
A domestic violence case led to the minimum trooper mandate, which was repealed last year. The law was passed after the 1998 killing of Heather Messenger in Chaplin. Before being murdered by her husband, Messenger called 911. However, only four officers were working out of the local barracks, covering a 300-square-mile area. It took them 20 minutes to get to Messenger’s residence and they arrived too late to save her.
Response times for domestic violence calls have increased from 2009 to 2012. In 2009, troopers responded to 81 percent of the calls within 15 minutes. In 2012, that percentage dropped to 75 percent, according to the study.
“PRI is unaware of a different standard or goal for response time for domestic violence calls; however, the public may find it unacceptable to have a certain percent of such calls responded to, for example, more than one hour after help was requested,” the study said.
In 2012, it took troopers an hour or more to respond to domestic violence calls in 3 percent of the calls, up from 1 percent in 2009.
The draft report notes that the number of 911 calls also dropped 3.5 percent between 2009 and 2012, as police staffing in general, and the number of troopers assigned in active patrol and resident state trooper positions, have declined.
“This decline in calls for service softens the impact of the 11 percent decrease in CSP sworn officers, and four percent decrease in active patrol and resident state troopers, in particular,” the report says.
While the study found response times have increased, it concluded that changes to other public safety concerns were unrelated to the number of state troopers.
For instance, as trooper staffing rates have dropped, so have crime rates in Connecticut. The study concluded that, because certain violent “offenses decreased at the same time the number of CSP sworn officers decreased, crime reduction cannot be attributed to the efforts of CSP.”
Though one might expect the number of traffic accidents to have increased as less troopers have been on the road, the study found the opposite was true. Accidents on roads under State Police jurisdictions have declined 8 percent from 2009 to 2012. Legislative staff also found no correlation between the number of traffic tickets issued and the number of fatal car accidents over the period studied.
Additionally, the study found no reason to conclude that Connecticut residents are less satisfied with the State Police as less troopers have been on the road. Complaints against the department have declined 51 percent as the number of sworn troopers have dropped by 14 percent.