Last year, Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona Legislature took important steps to support the brave men and women of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. We are grateful. To Governor Ducey and the Legislature – Thank you.
The 10% pay raise provided last year for our sworn and civilian staff has helped stymie the hemorrhage of employees to other agencies, and we also received important funding to repair or replace some of our dilapidated equipment.
This year, a proposal before the Legislature would go even further to address DPS’s needs. With these targeted investments, DPS will be well-situated to fill vacant positions and better protect and serve Arizonans.
Governor Ducey stood before state leaders in January and announced that he wanted to make Department of Public Safety troopers the highest paid law enforcement professionals in the state. He understands that the officers who patrol our freeways and highways are stretched thin due to retirements and transfers to other law enforcement agencies with more competitive pay. And he understands that this is bad for Arizonans.
By funding 15% pay raises for all sworn and civilian DPS staff, DPS can attract new talent and fend off poaching attempts from other agencies with higher pay and smaller territory. And we will be able offer the brave men and women who protect our state salaries they deserve.
DPS currently has 277 trooper positions – about a third of our positions – vacant and a staggering 185 additional troopers are eligible for retirement. This does not even consider the fact that Arizona has added 1,000 miles of highways since the 1990s without authorizing additional trooper positions.
Between a 10% pay raise last year and a new infusion this year, DPS can stem the losses and begin to fill our vacancies. Offering a 15% pay raise for both sworn and support staff would cost the state about $35 million, but the impact goes far beyond the dollars.
The state saw a 6.5% increase in highway deaths in 2021 and 1,212 deaths on state roads – the most in 15 years. Much of this is attributable to bad driving habits made worse during the pandemic, but when you consider that the only way DPS can cover the new portion of the Loop 202 is through overtime, it becomes abundantly clear that new investments are needed to make sure our roads are safe.
Now is the time to make this investment. Between federal dollars flowing through the state and increased tax revenues due to our spectacular economic recovery, Arizona has a record surplus and can afford to invest in education, roads, foster care, and its front-line law enforcement officers.
DPS has other needs too, including improvements at our canine training facility in Casa Grande and we desperately need new buildings in Flagstaff and Tucson to replace outdated structures. These are one-time investments that would make lasting impacts.
I’ve met with numerous legislators on both sides of the aisle since January. Support for our troopers remains strong. I thank the governor for his leadership in funding law enforcement and, as the legislators begin to put pencil to paper for this year’s budget, we urge them to stand with Governor Ducey in supporting troopers around the state with a 15% pay increase.
Jeff Hawkins is president of the Arizona State Troopers Association.