The state legislature voted Wednesday to approve a four year contract providing significant raises aimed at boosting recruitment and retention among the dwindling ranks of Connecticut State Police.
The contract, negotiated by Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration and the police union, will provide 2.5% general wage increases for each of its first three years and a reopener agreement for its final year. The deal is retroactive to last July and also includes a $3,500 bonus as well as financial benefits for staff at top pay and those pursuing college degrees.
All told, the contract will cost the state around $46.7 million in its first three years, according to the Office of Fiscal Analysis.
The House approved the contract in a nearly unanimous, mid-afternoon vote with only Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott, voting in opposition while the Senate later voted 35-1, only Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, voted against it. Rank and file state police voted overwhelmingly to approve the agreement last month.
During a debate on the House floor, Rep. Mike D’Agostino, D-Hamden, said boosting state police ranks was central to the deal. As of Wednesday, Connecticut employed around 880 state police, a number that had declined by around 400 in the last several years, he said. The state needed around 1,000 troopers just to control overtime, he said.
“This particular agreement has at its core a drive, a desire to increase recruitment, increase retention for our state employees, in this case our state police,” D’Agostino said.
“Young police officers are going to neighboring municipalities. They are not becoming state police,” D’Agostino said. “You can go to West Hartford now and become a first-year police officer and make up to $15,000 more than a first-year state trooper. You can go to Glastonbury and make up to $18,000 more.”
The contract increases starting pay for recruits in the academy from $50,000 per year to $64,000.
House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, called it a “small step” in the right direction.
“We are at an all-time record low of state police officers,” Candelora said. “This is a full-on assault on police officers by the Democrats on police officers and has led to very low morale. This contract is a small step to recruit police officers.”
He said Republicans would like to see changes to the contract that would unravel some of the qualified immunity measures and ability to engage in motor vehicle chases that were part of the Police Accountability bill. However, that proved difficult since it was a negotiated contract between the police and the Lamont administration.
The legislature is allowed to approve labor contracts, but they can’t change them during the debate.
The contract has prompted concerns about public access to state police grievance and disciplinary records. A section of the agreement supersedes the state’s Freedom of Information case law, requiring grievance hearings to be open to the public.
In written testimony early this month, the state Freedom of Information Commission wrote that access to those records and proceedings “should not be contracted away by the language of a collective bargaining agreement.”
During a press availability Wednesday, House Speaker Matt Ritter said that while he understood the public access concerns, he believed the contract was sound on the whole.
“I would say that you’ve got to look at things in totality, right? And so if I look at the totality of the contract I can vote in favor of it,” Ritter said. “We gotta be careful about … FOI and limiting people’s access to certain things but I wasn’t in the room for those negotiations. I have to trust the people that negotiated that contract.”