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    Monday, January 30, 2023

    Lamont, state police union believe new contract should boost recruitment

    Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signs into law the legalization of recreational-use marijuana on June 22, 2021, in Hartford, Conn. (Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant via AP)

    Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday that a tentative contract deal with the Connecticut State Police Union is geared toward improving recruitment and retention at a time when police departments are struggling to fill vacancies across the United States.

    “It is an investment in the future of public safety in our state by incentivizing the recruitment of top-quality candidates, as well as the retention of our current troopers,” Lamont said.

    No details of the four-year deal will be released until they are presented to the union’s membership. The bargaining unit is composed of troopers, sergeants and master sergeants and is the last to reach a wage agreement with the administration.

    Lamont’s relationship with the union has been fraught since the passage of a police accountability bill over the union’s objections in 2020, leading to a vote of no-confidence in the governor that became an issue in his reelection campaign.

    But the union remained neutral in the 2022 campaign, declining to join some municipal police unions in endorsing Lamont’s Republican opponent, Bob Stefanowski.

    The announcement of the deal by the governor’s office included the union’s assessment that the agreement “recognizes the unique circumstances and dangers” of the profession and an upbeat quote from its leader, Todd Fedigan.

    “We are grateful to Gov. Lamont’s administration for their professionalism and commitment of ensuring our members are recognized for their dedication and sacrifice to preserving public safety here in Connecticut,” Fedigan said.

    Connecticut state troopers currently have a 10-step pay plan that ranges from $61,257 to $107,827, not including overtime and shift differentials. The new deal will quicken how quickly a trooper reaches the top of the scale, though neither the administration or union would say by how much.

    The median pay for members of the bargaining unit was $118,307 in 2021, with more than 100 making more than $200,000, according to state payroll records. A dozen made more than $300,000, including a sergeant who earned $356,871.

    James C. Rovella, the commissioner of emergency services and public protection, said the new contract will improve the state’s ability to compete with municipal police departments in a tight labor market.

    “I believe that we are providing benefits and wages that will attract the best candidates possible while recognizing the sacrifices of the men and women of the Connecticut State Police,” Rovella said.

    Police have complained of poor morale since the videotaped police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis prompted a backlash against police and a reappraisal of policies pertaining to the use of force and liability.

    But the International Association of Chiefs of Police declared a recruiting crisis in 2019, a year before the Floyd case became a catalyst for examining police use of force in the United States and passage of Connecticut’s accountability law.

    The report cited causes ranging from the public perception of law enforcement to a desire by younger workers to place more value on work-life balance than Baby Boomers have.

    Andrew Matthews, the executive director of Connecticut State Police Union, said he believes the contract will make a difference in recruitment and retention, though details will not become widely public until next week.

    “It’s a great contract,” he said.

    Lamont told reporters he, too, was confident it would make a difference.

    “We got to do everything we can to continue to recruit the best and the brightest for our state police,” Lamont said. “And I think you’ll see an increase there and will hopefully make a real difference.”

    Mark Pazniokas is a reporter for The Connecticut Mirror (www.ctmirror.org). Copyright 2022 © The Connecticut Mirror.

    mpazniokas@ctmirror.org

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