(Updated 8:34 p.m.) For anyone who doubts Gov. Dannel P. Malloy means what he says, the governor made it official Tuesday that he will proceed with the 56 layoff notices issued to the newest class of state troopers. The troopers were one of two bargaining groups to vote down the two-year wage freeze, and four years of job security last week.
The decision comes 24 hours after hundreds of state troopers gathered at the Capitol to ask the governor to spare the 56 troopers in the name of public safety. It’s unclear how many of the layoff notices will be delayed to give the Public Safety Department time to retrain troopers currently assigned to specialized units such as major crimes and narcotics.
“It’s not a decision I wanted to make,” said Malloy. “As everyone here in this state knows I’ve done everything in my power to avoid layoffs, including negotiating over a long period of time a contract that would have prevented layoffs.”
The Connecticut State Police Union voted against the two-year wage freeze and four years of job security.
Malloy said he hopes a large number of the troopers will rejoin the state as they continue to experience retirements, but he doesn’t have a crystal ball to predict how quickly it could happen.
Public Safety Commissioner Reuben Bradford said it could be less than a year before this trooper class is back on the road.
“It is my fervent desire that all of those laid off return,” Bradford said.
He maintained that public safety would not be put at risk by putting troopers from specialized units back on the road.
Sgt. Andrew Matthews, president of the Connecticut State Police Union, said he’s disappointed in the decision. He said his members voted to keep their current contract which would have given them 2.5 percent raises this year.
Matthews said the decision to layoff the troopers will bring the state police well below the statutorily mandated 1,248 troopers and will drive up the cost of overtime and will put public safety at risk.
Malloy admitted he hasn’t read the particular statute mandating the 1,248 troopers, but “what I believe is that under optimum times the legislature thought that was the number that was required. Suffice it to say that these are not optimum times any longer. We have not been at that number for a long period of time.”
Matthews, a lawyer himself, said he’s read the statute and admittedly there’s not a penalty written into it if the state violates it. However, he said, Malloy did make a campaign promise to hire at least 55 state troopers regardless of the state’s economic conditions. He said that promise was made to the union a few days after he received their endorsement.
As a candidate Malloy released a public safety policy paper which says the following: “Our state and municipal police forces have become increasingly understaffed and the number of state troopers is currently 55 short of the 1,248 mandated level. We must re-invest in the state’s commitment to community policing and ensure that Connecticut meets and exceeds statutorily required state police staffing levels.”
But things have changed. Malloy inherited a $3.5 billion deficit and it took months to get the $1.6 billion in labor concessions.
While the layoffs could have been worse, Matthews said this will further strain the troopers relationship with the governor’s office.
The layoffs will bring the number of troopers down to 1,071 troopers far below the 1,248.
“Our members are already stretched thin,” said Matthews. “This is going to put more stress on the members that are left behind and I think it will create overtime.”
Matthews said he will be meeting with attorney’s today to discuss the next steps.
In a statement Sen. Kevin Witkos, a Canton police officer, called Malloy’s decision to layoff the troopers a “spoiled kid tactic.” The governor acknowledged that training the troopers cost the state close to $4 million, he said. Malloy chose to lay them off because their union rejected a wage freeze after already dealing with a freeze under Gov. M. Jodi Rell, Witkos said.
“This is an absolute waste of trained professionals and now an even larger waste of millions of taxpayer dollars and state investment,” he said. “These layoffs come at a dangerous time; crime in our state’s cities is up, the state’s buddy system is being leaned on too heavily, and our troopers are the only officers that can cross municipal lines to investigate misdemeanors and patrol state highways. Fewer troopers on the job and more work will also mean that taxpayers will be digesting the increased costs of overtime. Where are the savings?”
Malloy made a point of telling all of his commissioners that the Office of Policy and Management will be expecting overtime reports from each of the departments. He said agencies will submit reports listing the employees in their departments with overtime that exceeds 50 percent of their base pay and the agency head will be expected to explain why.
He said it’s a management tool he used as Mayor of Stamford. He said it will help the state cut down on its use of overtime and create efficiencies in state government.
In addition to the the trooper layoffs, 23 notices issued to correctional supervisors will stand, Malloy said.