Gov. Ned Lamont has submitted a new contract between his administration and the State Police Union to the General Assembly for approval during the legislative session.

The contract, valued at $22.3 million on an annualized basis by the Office of Policy and Management, aims to increase recruitment for the State Police, which only has 888 employees at this time, far below a rarely met state standard of 1,248 set in 1998 that was eventually overturned in 2012 by the legislature following state trooper layoffs by Gov. Dannel Malloy and a court fight with the union.

The lack of troopers has led to overtime being worked by State Police. According to the most recent state audit, a sampling of troopers and one dispatcher found that staff were working hundreds of hours of overtime and earning more in overtime payments than in salary. The overtime payments ultimately boost the pension payouts for retirees. 

The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection responded in the audit that they are actively seeking to recruit new officers to decrease overtime payments, which topped nearly $38 million last year, and the latest contract agreement appears to one method by which the state is looking to bring new troopers into the fold.

“This agreement increases the base pay for trooper trainees so that they are competitive with municipalities and other states, and includes a higher rate for existing law enforcement professionals who are hired by the State Police and attend the Connecticut Police Academy,” a press release from the Governor’s office said. “These two measures are designed to increase the number of trooper trainees in each class that Governor Lamont has already funded and committed to hiring.”

Under the terms of the new contract, new troopers will start with a higher base salary and be awarded annual step increases until reaching the top step, whereupon they will receive annual payouts. 

Trooper salaries will receive three 2.5 percent increases over the next three years, a $3,500 bonus and wages will reopen for negotiation in the fourth year in 2025, mirroring the latest wage agreements reached between the State and the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition. 

Troopers will also be offered 4 hours of work if their overtime shift is canceled within 24 hours of the start of their shift and will receive a minimum 8 hours of work in addition to their patrol time when mandated for an overtime shift.

Noticeably crossed out of the contract, however, was a provision passed in 2019 that barred internal affairs investigations with the disposition of “Exonerated, Unfounded or Not Sustained,” which are kept out of a trooper’s personnel file, from being released through a Freedom of Information Request. 

The Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) testified in 2020 that the DESPP was interpreting the FOI language in the contract “very broadly” and thus violating FOI laws.

Although that language was included in the contract approved by the General Assembly, it was then stripped out by the General Assembly through the Police Accountability Act in the summer of 2020 following the death of George Floyd and a nationwide movement calling for police accountability.

Connecticut allows for union contract provisions to supersede state statute, however, the Police Accountability Act created exceptions when those contract provisions bumped up against Connecticut’s FOI laws.

The State Police Union filed federal suit against the change in 2020 alleging the change violated the terms of their contract and that the provision keeps anonymous, false and unsubstantiated claims from being released to the public, according to CT Insider.  Two federal judges ruled against the State Police Union before they finally petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court and were denied.

The Police Accountability Act has remained a sore spot for troopers and police across Connecticut.

The current contract maintains language obligating the DESPP to deny FOI requests if the employee “objects to the release of that information on the basis of reasonable belief that the release would constitute an invasion of his/her privacy,” until a ruling is made by the FOIC.

The General Assembly must hold a vote on the contract within thirty days, otherwise the contract will be deemed unapproved, following a statutory change in 2017. Previously, union contracts were deemed approved if they were not voted on within 30 days.

“Our Connecticut State Police are among the finest members of law enforcement in the nation and they deserve to be recognized for their integrity, commitment to service, and the sacrifices they and their families make,” Lamont said in a press statement. “This new contract provides financial and other incentives for the retention and recruitment of the best troopers and candidates.”

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Marc worked as an investigative reporter for Yankee Institute and was a 2014 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow. He previously worked in the field of mental health is the author of several books and novels,...

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