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  1. #1
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    Low pay drives Florida Highway Patrol troopers to the exits

    OrlandoSentinel.com
    Low pay drives Florida Highway Patrol troopers to the exits
    35% leave each year, creating a shortage of officers.
    Martin E. Comas

    Sentinel Staff Writer

    August 28, 2007

    Longtime Florida Highway Patrol troopers continue to leave the agency in droves for higher-paying jobs as police officers, deputy sheriffs and even federal air marshals.

    Many of these state troopers say they loved their jobs patrolling the state's highways and roads. But an outdated salary structure has frustrated veteran troopers, who often earn only a few thousand dollars a year more than raw new recruits.

    FHP officials say the exodus of rank-and-file veterans has resulted in a current shortage of more than 200 troopers statewide. In Central Florida, there is a shortage of more than two dozen troopers. Officials estimate about 35 percent of troopers leave each year for higher-paying jobs.

    Responding to the shortfall, the FHP recently launched recruitment drives targeting universities, community colleges and military veterans. In another effort to stem the tide, the agency now requires new troopers to sign a contract saying they will stay with the FHP for at least two years or pay back some of the money it cost to train them.

    "In today's world, it is challenging. And it's a problem we're facing," FHP spokesman Maj. Ernesto Duarte said. "There's no magic bullet."

    The trooper shortage carries consequences: It means car-accident victims often end up waiting hours for a patrol officer to arrive and take a report.

    "On some days, it's crazy. You go from crash to crash to crash -- especially on rainy summer afternoons when we have a lot of wrecks," Trooper Kim Miller said. "It does get frustrating for people waiting, especially when they've had to wait for three or four hours. . . . Some people get very upset, which I can understand."

    Starting pay for a state trooper today is about $34,000 a year, according to Duarte. Because troopers are state employees, it's the Legislature that budgets money for hiring and raising salaries.

    "Year after year, it was empty promises" from the Legislature, said one former trooper, who did not want to be identified because he now works as a federal air marshal. Traveling on flights around the country, he earns about $20,000 more than he was making as a trooper.

    "And I'm having a great time," he said.

    Across Florida, the patrol had 1,638 sworn officers at the end of July, but is making do with an 11-percent shortfall in troopers. In this area -- including Orange, Seminole, Lake, Brevard, Osceola and Volusia -- there were 219 sworn officers patrolling the roads. The agency is authorized to have 26 more. Statewide, FHP officials say they are authorized to have an additional 208.

    It's similar to 2000-01, a recent high watermark for departures, when the agency had more than 160 trooper vacancies with many veterans opting for early retirement.

    FHP officials say they need more troopers to cope with a growing population. At the end of 2006, there were 15.7 million licensed drivers in Florida, and about 60 million tourists visit every year. Last year, troopers wrote more than 1 million citations, responded to more than 254,500 crashes and arrested almost 11,500 drivers on suspicion of DUI.

    "Those are numbers that do concern us," Duarte said.

    So does trooper pay.

    "We're working closely with the Legislature on this," Duarte said about supplementing trooper salaries. "But we recognize that the state is going through some challenging times. . . . In today's world, there are issues like reducing property taxes, [homeowners] insurance, gasoline prices. It affects everyone, including members of the FHP."

    FHP officials plan to urge state lawmakers to adopt a salary plan in which veteran troopers are awarded $500 per year for up to 10 years or $5,000.

    It costs $75,000 to $80,000 to train and equip each new recruit. But new troopers often would flee to other law-enforcement agencies soon after they were trained. To prevent that from happening, the agency instituted the two-year contract.

    Trooper disenchantment with pay is a chronic problem.

    The Orlando Police Department, for example, pays its starting officers about $42,300 a year, according to Officer Jim Young, a department spokesman. Young said many new recruits served two to five years with the FHP before becoming Orlando officers.

    "I would say pay is probably the biggest reason," Young said. He added many troopers also want to work in different areas of law enforcement, such as bike patrol and murder investigations.

    Jim Whitman left the FHP in 2004 after almost 10 years. His salary at the time was about $32,000. But when he joined the Winter Park Police Department, his pay jumped by more than $5,000.

    "I was training officers that were making the same as I was, and that was frustrating," Whitman said.

    Martin E. Comas can be reached at mcomas@orlandosentinel.com or 352-742-5927.

  2. #2
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    I clear less than $2400 a month. How sad is that? And money is not the only problem with this agency. How can anyone be blamed for wanting to leave.

  3. #3
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    the problem is that nothing is going to be done about it? i'm tired of hearing all of this b.s. but no one steps up to the plate. and where is pba?????? they have scattered like roaches when the lights go on. it's just sad.

  4. #4
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    Nothing new.

  5. #5
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    The "magic bullet" is state funding for competitive pay. Until that happens the understaffing problem with continue.

  6. #6
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    As a former trooper, I can say the funny thing is that pay isn't the biggest problem with FHP. I would've taken the pay, it was the structure, the lack of support, the unwritten quotas, the "do more with less," the chicken sh*t write ups, the two faced policies that they cherry picked to enforce... I could go on and on. The media hasn't even scratched the surface of what is REALLY wrong with FHP.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    As a former trooper, I can say the funny thing is that pay isn't the biggest problem with FHP. I would've taken the pay, it was the structure, the lack of support, the unwritten quotas, the "do more with less," the chicken sh*t write ups, the two faced policies that they cherry picked to enforce... I could go on and on. The media hasn't even scratched the surface of what is REALLY wrong with FHP.
    I'd love to hear it if you want to tell me about it
    FightingFireWithFire@protonmail.com

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    I'd love to hear it if you want to tell me about it
    FightingFireWithFire@protonmail.com
    What is the benefit of giving you the information? Are you someone that can effect change? Are you a reporter?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    What is the benefit of giving you the information? Are you someone that can effect change? Are you a reporter?
    The benefit is bringing the corruption and unjust issues into the light. I guess I'm kind of a reporter. Well I've given info to reporters in the past and always with permission of the person who gave me the info. Please write my info down incase the mods delete it. I can and will affect change. I will look into things that you can tell me about and you can decide what we do with the information. I don't want to talk too much on here for OPSEC reasons. You can easily make a throwaway email with Protonmail if you want, or any other email service. It's a good idea to not use your real email address incase my account gets compromised. But I took steps to make that hard to do. I suggest you don't message me on your work internet or while you're working. I will explain I'm detail in email.

  10. #10
    Unregistered
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    The benefit is bringing the corruption and unjust issues into the light. I guess I'm kind of a reporter. Well I've given info to reporters in the past and always with permission of the person who gave me the info. Please write my info down incase the mods delete it. I can and will affect change. I will look into things that you can tell me about and you can decide what we do with the information. I don't want to talk too much on here for OPSEC reasons. You can easily make a throwaway email with Protonmail if you want, or any other email service. It's a good idea to not use your real email address incase my account gets compromised. But I took steps to make that hard to do. I suggest you don't message me on your work internet or while you're working. I will explain I'm detail in email.
    I just love these Tinfoil Hat Goobers.

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