For eight years, both of us have seen the Department of Public Safety (DPS) stand in the back of the line, thankful for anything the state Legislature can provide them financially. However, now is the time to focus on government’s core responsibility — public safety. We are pleased to work on a bill which will help make DPS competitive once again.

The Legislature has, and continues to task this highly-respected agency with a vast array of responsibilities. With increased mandates and little funding from the recession, DPS is in a difficult position to hire more employees and maintain the best workforce with specific skill sets. Essentially, Arizona’s state police are stretched too thin to provide adequate safety to the public.

From the officers fighting drug trafficking at the border and patrolling every stretch of federal and state highway to the scientist analyzing DNA for a violent crime, DPS can lose these instrumental employees to competitive agencies. They are slowly hiring new officers to replace those lost through attrition during the recession. However, DPS needs a plan for the future with increased responsibilities and more vacancies expected. Arizona citizens do not deserve status quo or below average police services when their safety is on the line.

The time has come that the Legislature works to make public safety a priority again. DPS and Arizonans have waited long enough.

After eight years, we are happy to see this conversation occurring at the Legislature. We urge the public to support House Bill 2691. The bill will allow DPS employees to simply be paid a more competitive salary.

• Speaker of the House Andy Tobin began serving in the Arizona House of Representatives in 2006. Jimmy Chavez is president of the Arizona Highway Patrol Association.

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