Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Chincing on trooper pay raises leaves DPS salaries uncompetitive

Texas state troopers are paid 10-20% less than police officers at the state's seven largest agencies, reported the state auditor today. Here's a link to the full report (pdf); see especially the chart ranking Texas cities by police pay level on p. 8 of the pdf. Austin's police remain the highest paid in the state, with state trooper pay maxing out around 61% of a comparable Austin PD officer. Comparing DPS troopers to the metropolitan PD averages, wrote Texas Watchdog's Mark Lisheron:
DPS sergeants make 18.6 percent and lieutenants 20.2 percent less than their urban counterparts. The maximum base pay of $84,427 for captains is 24.3 percent less than the  $104,971 for the police and sheriff’s department captains.

The Austin Police Department offers, by far, the highest maximum base pay for each rank, followed by Fort Worth and Dallas. (Please see the chart on page 9 of the report.).

To bring those state salaries in line with the metropolitan average could be accomplished by paying out an additional $51.5 million annually, according to the Auditor’s report.
This has been a primary gripe from troopers I've spoken with personally who seem to feel left out in the cold when it comes to pay hikes. After all, executives at DPS already got theirs.

The market rate in Texas for top officers has mushroomed ever since - for reasons that still baffle me, some seemingly sensible people, against the advice of their better angels, decided to make APD officers among the highest paid police in the western hemisphere. This occurred through a series of negotiated raises outside the regular budget process, under the auspices of a state-authorized "meet and confer" agreement which also controls the authority of the city's disciplinary process, the authority of the city's police monitor, etc., giving the union de facto veto power over their own disciplinary process. DPS needn't follow that self-destructive path to become competitive, but raises are perhaps overdue.

Still, even shooting for the "metropolitan average," as advised by the auditor, would be quite a bump. "The average maximum base pay for officers, corporals and detectives in those departments is $74,543 or 20.6 percent more than the $61,793 average maximum for those ranks in the state Department of Public Safety," wrote Lisheron. We're asking troopers to do a lot these days, including too frequent assignments to overpatrol rural border stretches. So if the current model is to continue, they surely deserve higher pay, and I agree the state benefits from having experienced, job-satisfied state troopers, so I generally support paying them more. The question becomes, is that politically possible?

For the benefit of the betting public, Grits would guesstimate the over-under on DPS trooper raises at 9% - i.e., more than that is about as likely as less. This has been a lingering need and the state will have a little more money than it anticipated, but I don't see the incoming fiscal conservatives going as high as 20%, state auditor's recommendation or no.


benbshaw said...

With those salaries, it is no wonder the police identify with the establishment when they crack down on the Occupy movement when the order comes down from the DOJ Fusion Centers and seconded by the mayors and city councils. The Austin City Police are making 2x the median income in Texas of $49,646. With a poverty rate of 16.8 percent, many of the people they interact with would feel lucky to receive the median income.

Charlie O said...

What those numbers don't tell you is how much money law enforcement makes in overtime. I have no sympathy for how much troopers make or any local cop either. They're all overpaid. Base salaries are no indication of how much money these take home. Many municipalities have rules that force private businesses to hire only cops for security. When I lived in Fort Worth, the local Minyards always had a FW cop, in uniform, on the premises. I'm sure he was working a second job. A job a mere mortal couldn't obtain.

Anonymous said...

DPS routinely has 400 officer vacancies and as the report reflects requires more education than those compared (i.e. APD, HPD, DPD, etc). I think pay is the bigger part of the solution.

Something not listed in the report is it takes 20 years to top out (max out) in pay at DPS unlike the other agencies surveyed that top out in about half that time and make 20 to 60 percent more per year years ahead of DPS officers.

Charlie O. a "mere mortal" can go into law enforcement, so why don't you?

Kirk said...

I think the problem is not that DPS is underpaid, but that the city cops are overpaid. Way, way overpaid. In my city, the starting salary for new cops (whose job requires something like an associates degree) is higher than the starting salary for new assistant district attorneys (whose job requires a law degree and license).

Anonymous said...

Prison guard pay in Texas ranks 48th in the nation.

Anonymous said...

You can't have your Kate and Edith too. Texas wants to avoid paying their law enforcement(DPS), and pseudo-law enforcement (corrections), and at the same time have a committed, professional force that will do right and keep the State from paying out on huge law suits. That's magical thinking, isn't it? One way or the other. Pretty soon, a lot of us in corrections, and maybe some in DPS, will get a bellyful, and then things will get worse. As it is, we still have good folks in TDCJ. Go ahead and let our pay go by the wayside some more. The better people leave first, and when they do, they make it that much harder on the ones still in place. Those few decent workers will not be too inclined to stay working for an agency filled with knuckleheads. It's a dangerous, frustrating, uncomfortable job that is almost always unappreciated. I hope Texas understands that.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with the article. First off, you cannot compare a state agency to a local agency. Is there any reasoning in paying a Trooper in Sierra Blanca the same pay as an Austin PD officer? State pay is based on a statewide average. In other words my first point would negate a significant pay raise. DPS is primarily responsible for the rural areas. RURAL areas. They already make two to three times their local counterparts there (in the majority of Texas) They serve zero purpose in metropolitan areas outside of one toll road in north Texas. The averaging scheme used to calculate pay rates is based on this statewide average. Does it seem reasonable to pay a Trooper in Pampa, TX the high end rates metropolitan police departments get? Will that Trooper be more productive? This will merely reinforce the entitlement syndrome that is rampant in DPS. I worked there for 21 years. I knew what I was getting into when I took the job. The majority of these high end newly appointed Assistant Directors have zero education outside of high school and in-service leadership schools. The ones that do were brought in from the outside. The majority of DPS training requires an eight-grade level of education and a GED. The rule of Highway Patrol is "10 and in". In other words, If I can make ten contacts in my first two hours out, I'm done for the day. Go to the coffee shop, kids games, etc. The remaining six hours are for personal business and listening to the radio. I'm serious. DPA Troopers already make more money than a licensed attorney on the state pay scale. Research some of these facts. About the 400+ vacancies. The director is intentionally holding this vacancies open to use the salaries to offset expenses for other purposes (fuel, border crime, boats, drones, etc) The vacancies could be filled if he would release the unspoken freeze on these positions. Another purpose this serves is to give the appearance that he can't get these vacancies filled because of lack of pay. Working for DPS was a far better job that being a city police officer in a major metropolitan area. I had half the work and, for the first four years, a 10% reduction in salary. After that I was making more than I did as a 13-year city officer. DPS doesn't take any call other than wreck calls. Your average trooper has no clue how to work a sexual assault case, a petty theft case, trespassing, burglary, fraud, etc. They know traffic. Their CID Agents know drugs. (It should be noted that the director all but eliminated the former investigations CLE Seargents used to do. Now they are all drugs.) The Regulatory Services Division works cases already being worked by other state agencies (drug diversion, salvage, scrap metal, etc.) In short, Trooping was the easiest good paying job I ever had with half the responsibilites.

john said...

I was down in Victoria, lat week. They cheaped out on their cops so much they're quitting. I heard they borrowed some State cops to hep cover the rounds.

oh rats, it's crapcha

Anonymous said...

Chalie O said.......What those numbers don't tell you is how much money law enforcement makes in overtime.

Many law enforcement agencies have adopted the 7k exemption found in the FLSA. They do not pay cash for overtime but give compensatory time off.

Anonymous said...

Charlie O said.........Many municipalities have rules that force private businesses to hire only cops for security.

You got some source to back that up?