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August 22, 2011

Those well-paid state troopers

E.J. McMahon

New York has the second highest-paid state police force in the country, the Gannett News Service (GNS) reported last week, based on both state payroll and U.S. Census records.  GNS said the average salary for all ranks of state trooper came to $112,000 as of 2009 — although a separate data source indicates the average may be higher.

State government employees belonging to the Police and Fire Retirement System earned an average salary of $115,709 as of fiscal 2009-10, according to the retirement system’s latest available annual report. At the state level, PFRS pensions are limited to troopers and a relatively small number of others, such as park police and conservation officers, who generally earn lower base salaries. In any event, salaries are only part of it, as an Associated Press report pointed out:

Besides the salary, troopers receive generous benefits. Troopers start with 15 days vacation — and get up to 28 days after 21 years. They also are entitled to 13 sick days a year that can be accumulated up to 300 days; on retirement, 165 days can go to pay health insurance and a fifth of the rest can be cashed in.

Add 12 holidays annually, three to five personal days and a $110 bonus to members who stay fit. The state pays to dry-clean uniforms and gives 15 days of bereavement leave. And troopers contribute nothing toward retirement, with the state kicking in nearly 19 percent of state police pay — or $106 million last year.

Troopers can retire after 20 years, regardless of age, and receive a pension of one half their final average salary and overtime — plus continuing health insurance coverage at little or no cost, depending on how many sick time hours a retiree has “banked” to apply to his or her share of the premium.

Like their counterparts in other state government unions unions, members of the NYS Troopers PBA received steady 3-4 percent annual pay hikes, plus extras, under a recently expired four-year contract.  But Governor Andrew Cuomo will find it hard to win contract savings from the  PBA because, thanks to a law enacted under Governor Pataki over a decade ago, the troopers have the right to unilaterally invoke binding arbitration of contract impasses.  Arbitration awards rarely produce significant concessions or structural changes in contracts, as labor lawyer Terry O’Neil points out in our 2007 “Taylor Made” study.


  1. While I recognize that police officers,state troopers and fire personnel do take some risks, the compensation far exceeds those incremental risks. Open up the employment rolls and take away the “union” protection, and there will be many applying for these positions. This is but one example of why New York State is continuing to go down hill and one reason why I have left the State.

    Comment by GovObserver — August 22, 2011 @ 10:21 am

  2. I don’t think Albany’s reaction is entirely helpful to its cause:

    “It has been said that ‘Freedom is not free.’ Fighting freedom is even more expensive, so be quiet about out overpaid troopers, or else!”

    Comment by David Shellenberger — August 23, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

  3. GovObserver commented that Troopers take some \incremental risk\ but he feels they are overcompensated, as does the article. Compared to whom I would ask. Perhaps most other police are under compensated. I don’t know. These statements are almost always entirely subjective as is what anyone is paid in America.

    The Troopers’ benefits are modestly better than typical state workers but not by much. On the other hand most of us don’t go to work wearing a gun and a bullet proof vest. I am sure we cold fill Trooper positions at even $40,000 a year but would we get the kind of people we want to protect us. When my plane takes off I want a Sully at the controls.

    About 1 our of 1,500 Troopers die in the line of duty each year. That might sound like a long shot but would you fly if 1 out of every 1,500 planes in America crashed each year. Probably not. If you compound that over a 20 years of service, the risk of death on the job for a Trooper (and ignoring non-fatal injuries) is a factor deserving of a significant compensation component.

    The critics of the cost of government seem to start with a mind set that every tax dollar spent is wasted. They ignore the great job that government employees do in many areas and the value that those in government service add to our communities. When I dial 911 I know that in about 5 minutes some man or woman who I never met will be running into my burning house to save me and my family. I would like that person to be well paid and I thank them for their service.

    Comment by W Dennis Duggan — August 24, 2011 @ 10:01 am

  4. Do all State Troopers participate in traffic, accident, and emergency related activities? Perhaps they should get hazzard pay while those who work inside offices would belong to a different salary schedule. Including overtime in the pension formula is an invitation for abuse. Since all can gain from that policy, who within the organization could ensure that the formula is not titlted for maximum benefit?

    Comment by George Baum — August 24, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

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