Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has a unique solution to cut down on overtime costs exacerbated by law enforcement staffing shortages: rehire retired troopers for police details.
Due to staffing shortages, Massachusetts State Police overtime costs have led to an increase in $51.5 million in taxpayer money over the last year. Baker’s cost-saving proposal, slipped inside his recent $48.5 billion budget proposal, would allow State Police to bring retired troopers back into the fold to perform police details.
In order to qualify for rehiring, troopers would need to have retired within the last three years. They must also have had an honorable discharge, be physically and mentally fit to perform their duties, be younger than 68 and must be certified by the state’s new police oversight board.
Massachusetts State Police, like many agencies across the country, has been struggling with staffing shortages due to the pandemic. Allegations of overtime abuse, along with stacking overtime costs, have been significant additional challenges over the last year that Baker hopes to address.
According to Dennis Galvin of the Massachusetts Association of Professional Law Enforcement, local police departments will often call on recent retirees to fill in for detail shifts. He said the move could help cut back on some overtime hours that some officers may be abusing.
“They’ve got some officers making $280,000 or $290,000 a year because of overtime and when they’re working that much, you have to question how alert are they, how physically capable are they,” Galvin said. “Excessive overtime hours raise serious questions about capabilities of officers and that becomes a public policy and safety concern for everybody.”
According to the Boston Herald, Trooper Robert Pinto was the highest-earning State Police officer last year, making $289,463, including more than $105,000 in overtime.
Galvin supported the idea of limiting overtime hours, saying there should be “some kind of controls” on the number of hours an officer can work.
While Baker did not specifically draw attention to this aspect of his budget proposal as one of its highlights, it caught the eye of the State Police union, which is already pushing back against it.
“These are jobs that active troopers can absolutely do and it’s the union’s firm belief that they should be the ones doing that work,” a union spokesperson told the Herald.
The union is currently in active negotiations with the state on the matter.