Editorial - State should keep promises to troopers
About half of the troopers in North Carolina's Highway Patrol are suing the state over lack of back pay. After a Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit a month ago, and the plaintiff are appealing, it is unclear how the lawsuit will turn out. However, the troopers have a strong case.
Beginning state troopers start with an annual salary of around $34,000. Recruiting brochures and state promises, however, had offered annual 5 percent raises until a highway patrolman reached the rank of master trooper, making $60,000 a year or more.
Then the Great Recession hit. All state pay raises were off, for years, and they haven't really been turned back on since. (Remember, all state employees this year are getting a one-time-only cash bonus of $750,)
Officers who joined since 2009 are essentially stuck. Those who've reached the master trooper level since then are only making around $45,000 or so. (Troopers' pay varies by region across the state.)
Many troopers in the class-action suit say they quit police forces with higher salaries, based on the promises of those pay raises that never came.
Legislators did give troopers a 5 percent across-the-board pay raise last year and another 3 percent this year. Troopers, however, say that doesn't make up for the raises they lost.
Many troopers say they've turned to second jobs to help support their families. Some have reportedly gone on food stamps, and the head of the state Troopers Association says his group has had to chip in to help members who fell behind on house payments.
Now, some people might think $45,000 is pretty cushy for a state job, especially one with health benefits and a potential pension.
Bear in mind, though: Troopers work long, taxing hours on highways, often in bad weather, dealing with inexpert, road-raged or plain drunk drivers. They don't know if or when they'll face a shooting situation.