Kevin Cook addresses state trooper shortage
Published 1:45 pm Thursday, September 8, 2016
Recently, the Luverne Rotary Club welcomed Alabama State Trooper Kevin Cook to join them as their guest speaker. Cook is a Dothan native and 1988 Rehobeth High School graduate, and served in the United States Marine Corp for six years.
Cook has been employed as an Alabama State Trooper for 19 years, spent 12 years as a Traffic Homicide Investigator and Crash Reconstructionist and for the last seven years has served as the department’s Public Information Officer.
State Troopers are entities represented by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), which was created by Act 2013-67 and represents the consolidation and realignment of 12 state law enforcement agencies/functions into one entity.
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ALEA is responsible for the functions and missions of the Alabama Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Public Safety, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, the Fusion Center, the Criminal Justice Information Center, the Marine Police, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Enforcement Division, the Department of Revenue Enforcement, the Forestry Commission Investigations, the Agriculture and Industry Investigations, the Public Service Commission Enforcement and the Office of Prosecution Services Computer Forensic Laboratories.
The main focus of Cook’s talk revolved around traffic safety.
“To say that our law enforcement is underappreciated today, especially in the times we’re at, is an understatement,” said Crenshaw County Probate Judge William Tate, who invited Cook to speak to the club.
“As I understand, we are approximately 300 troopers statewide from being at the level we need to be. They are definitely undermanned and underappreciated.”
According to Cook, there are approximately 259 troopers currently on the road who are responsible for 67 counties statewide. Two counties, Bullock and Pickens, do not even have troopers assigned to them.
“If we continue to lose people like we are to attrition and retirement without properly hiring folks, there will not be any state troopers in six years,” Cook said.
Cook stated that traffic fatalities this year have gone up 103 fatalities as of this time last year. The number of crashes is up a little over 1,200, and the number of crashes with injuries is up a little over 1,500.
Cook believes these fatalities have risen because the lack of troopers keeps them from being able to more thoroughly patrol roads and respond.
Cook stated that having more of a trooper presence on the road would lessen the number of incidents merely because of the way drivers respond to law enforcement while driving.
“It’s a proven fact that when people see law enforcement, they have a tendency to change their driving behavior,” Cook said.
“Our job and our goal as Alabama State Troopers and law enforcement is to save lives. Our goal is not to see how many tickets we can write. Our job is to save lives.”
Cook stated that the top five reasons for car accidents are distracted driving (which can be a side effect of texting or eating while driving), speeding, driving under the influence, following too closely to someone and aggressive driving, otherwise known as road rage.
According to Cook, incidents for road rage have increased by 15 percent this year, and many of the incidents involve drivers leaving their vehicles to engage in altercations with other drivers.
According to Cook, 40 percent of all fatal crashes in Alabama are alcohol-related, and the nationwide total is at 32 percent.