Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Agency seeking higher pay for state troopers

FHP vehicle


The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is backing an election-year proposal by Governor Rick Scott to boost pay for troopers in the Florida Highway Patrol.

The department proposed a just over 10 percent starting pay increase for troopers in their legislative budget request, as FHP struggles to fill approximately 200 vacant positions. Troopers received a five percent pay raise this year with the beginning of the current budget year on July 1.

“The FHP continues to have difficulty hiring and retaining qualified candidates due to the inability to pay a comparable rate with local and federal law-enforcement agencies,” said the department’s budget request, which goes before Scott and the Cabinet next Wednesday. “Consequently, all trained and experienced staff will look for competitive salaries elsewhere. Funds invested in training, uniforms, physicals, and other costs associated with these positions is lost.”

Under the proposal, the starting pay for troopers would go to $42,000 from about $38,000 now. The plan also called for an “experience-based incremental pay plan” which could see troopers pulling in $60,000 after 20 years of service.

Before this summer’s pay raise, Florida’s rookie troopers were the lowest paid state law enforcement in the country. That’s led to FHP losing many of its troopers to other agencies, including local police and sheriff’s departments.

Lt. Greg Bueno, public information officer for Troop F, which covers Southwest Florida including from Alligator Alley to Manatee County, said in June as the debate over the first pay raise picked up steam that the troop had 44 vacancies. The understaffing can lead to slower response times on Florida’s highways, he said.

“The FHP has established a high standard to respond to calls for service and strives to arrive on the scene of a crash within 30 minutes or less,” Bueno said in June. “When there are fewer FHP Troopers on the road, it may mean a slower response time for drivers involved in a crash or disabled motorists who are stranded on the side of the road.”

In late July, Scott proposed a $30 million package to fund pay raises for state law enforcement, including the highway patrol. The 2018 legislative session is going to be the final one for the term-limited governor, who is expected to make a run at the U.S. Senate.

“This $30 million in pay raises will help reward our hard-working state law enforcement officers and ensure we can continue to hire highly qualified and dedicated officers to keep Florida families safe for years to come,” Scott said.

Session begins in January.

Information from The News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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