Photo courtesy of CSEA/SEIU Local 2001

The Connecticut State Police Union criticized Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell Tuesday for not maintaining what its says are the state’s minimum staffing levels.

“Currently, we have 1,148 troopers, well below the minimum public safety requirement of 1,248,” Trooper Steven Rief, president of the police union, said. “In effect, this number is even lower due to the number of troopers who are on leave to serve in the military, who are out on medical leave, or who are on light duty.”

But Rell’s office countered that the ranks of state troopers have steadily increased during her tenure.

“Under Governor Rell, trooper ranks have steadily increased and as of this past February – with 1,283 sworn officers – were at the highest staffing level in over a decade,” Rell’s office said in a statement Tuesday. “With the addition of the recently announced class and a class of new troopers that graduated this past April, the state will have added over 100 new troopers in 18 months.”

Meanwhile, since November 2008, when the last trainee class started the academy, the department has lost 142 troopers, Rief said. And, that is not counting how many troopers it will lose before the class of 45 goes in, in March 2010.

The union appreciated Rell’s announcement earlier this week that 45 state trooper candidates will begin training in March to refill the ranks trimmed by the early retirements, but Rief said it’s not enough. The state’s Public Safety Commissioner John Danaher had requested a class of 80 troopers. Rell cut the request in half.

It’s likely some of those 45 candidates will leave before the end of the six-month training period, Rief said.

According to the union 125 state troopers participated in the early retirement offered by the state this summer. The General Assembly ratified the retirement incentive package negotiated by Rell and the state employee’s coalition this past May. The package is expected save the state $700 million over the next two years.

When she gave her budget address in 2008 Rell proposed adding 20 troopers a year over the next five years. That would have brought the number of state troopers up to 1,348, Rief said.

She should at least meet the statutory minimum, Rief said. A class of 45 “falls far short of the mark,” he said.

He said the decision will impact every city and every town in the state, but said the union is not considering filing a lawsuit just yet.

“All we’re saying is that we want to be backed up and supported,” Rief said.

In 1998 the General Assembly passed legislation requiring a minimum staffing level of 1,248 state troopers in response to a domestic violence homicide in Chaplin.