From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
About 525 state troopers would get significant pay raises under the governor’s balanced budget proposal for next fiscal year.
If the legislature approves the plan, Arkansas troopers’ salaries will be second only to Texas in our region.
The governor outlined his plan on the first day of budget hearings, when the legislature
began detailed preparations for the Fiscal Session that will officially convene on February 14.
Currently, the starting salary for Arkansas state troopers is $42,357 a year. If the legislature goes along with the governor’s proposal, starting salaries would increase to between $52,000and $55,000 a year.
The director of the State Police told legislators that the pay raise would be historic, if approved.
We hope that an increase in trooper salaries will reverse the recent trend of fewer applicants looking for jobs with the State Police.
The trend is concerning. In 2013 the State Police received 1,373 applications. By 2018 the number of applicants had dropped to about 500. Last year, only 226 individuals applied to become state troopers.
It takes about five months for applicants to complete the testing period, and we know from experience that about a third of the applicants won’t make it through the academy.
The rigorous testing is only one reason for the decline in applicants, according to the director of the State Police. Pay is not keeping up with inflation, and the pressures of the job are getting worse.
Here’s a frightening example: since last June 14, four Arkansas troopers have been fired upon.
Here’s another example that shows that their jobs are getting more difficult – in the year before the Covid-19 pandemic hit us, troopers pulled over about 1,000 speeders who were going over 100 miles an hour.
In the first year of the pandemic, that number went up to 2,000. Last they arrested 2,400 speeders who were going faster than 100 miles an hour.
It’s not unheard of for a trooper to pull over motorists going 150 to 160 miles an hour.
One of the most important duties of the State Police is to assist local police departments investigate crimes. Those requests have been steadily going up.
It takes a rookie state trooper four-and-a-half years to make trooper first class, and an additional three years to become a corporal.
Salaries are generally low because so many of our troopers are young – from 45 to 50 of all troopers have less than seven years of experience. A pay raise would help us keep the best officers with the most experience and training.
The governor and the director of the State Police agree that raising the starting salaries of state troopers would provide strong encouragement for cities and counties to increase salaries for local law enforcement officers.
Right now, the pay increase for troopers is just a proposal.
When the fiscal session begins, the legislature will make a final determination.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.