CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With a nearly 5,000 case backlog, new State Police Superintendent Col. Jan Cahill told members of the state Senate Finance Committee Thursday his priority during the next year would be to fill vacancies and add positions at the State Police Crime Lab.

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The last State Police Cadet Class was in 2015.

More than half of the backlogged cases are in the drug identification section, Cahill said.

“It is absolutely no exaggeration at all for us to say that 90-plus percent, probably 95 percent, of everything we do (investigations by troopers) has a drug link. If you connect the dots enough you can go back and have a drug link or just about everything we do,” Cahill said.

Evidence in criminal cases from various police agencies from across the state come to the crime lab. Cahill said with a tight state budget they’ve chosen to concentrate on the backlog over adding a new cadet class.

While recognizing reducing the backlog is important, several senators told Cahill they believe adding troopers through a cadet class should be a priority. Cahill said they hoped to maintain with the same level of troopers for another year.

“We are not bumping into each other with extra personnel. If we had 800 (troopers) we could utilize them,” Cahill said. “We feel like this year we can tread water right now with the numbers we have. We have put some people back on the road who were in more specialized positions to address that lack of personnel.”

There are currently 645 troopers. There have been as many as 696. The latest cadet class was in 2015. Sen. John Unger (D-Berkeley) said paying for a cadet class could cut costs in other areas.

“I’m just wondering what the cost will be overall throughout the system by saying we can tread water but all of this is going to continue to get worse. We’re going to be paying more when we could invest up front,” Unger said.

Cahill said he would gladly welcome a new cadet class. He told senators it would cost approximately $3 million.

Sen. Doug Facemire (D-Braxton) said a cadet class should be at the top of the list for lawmakers.

“We all know the situation. Now what it comes down to is priorities. That’s what it comes down to. We have only so much money to spend. We cannot continue this,” Facemire said.

Cahill said he expects as many as 40 current troopers to retire by January 2019. He said if there’s no cadet class this year there will have to be one in 2018.

“I’m open (to a cadet class this year) if the funding is found but we will absolutely have to have one next year to absorb those 30 to 40 guys who will be retiring,” he said.

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