(WTNH) – A recent state audit shows the Connecticut State Police are understaffed, but there could be a shift in the ranks now that officials have agreed on a new contract that guarantees substantial raises for troopers. 

Budget analysts are still crunching the numbers on what it will cost the state, but negotiators say improving public safety was at the core of the deal.

State police just graduated 33 troopers from the academy and 37 officers will graduate in their next class.  The recent state audit showed the state is paying out a lot of money for overtime because there aren’t enough men and women on the job.

Andy Matthews, the Executive Director of the Connecticut State Police Union says, “over the last four years, we’ve lost over 400 troopers.”

A new four-year contract was overwhelmingly approved by the rank-and-file union members this week.  What did they gain?

There is a 2.5% general wage increase and during the fourth year of the contract, there is a re-opener to negotiate.

To recruit more experienced officers, negotiators increased the base salary. Starting salary for non-academy trained officers is increased from $50K to $64K. Starting salary for academy-trained officers is increased from $50K to $73K.

“We’ve raised the starting salary by about $20,000 for non-certified and certified officers. We have different plans, but we think that it will attract new recruits from local PDs from around the country,” explained Matthews.

Top-step troopers will receive a lump sum 2% bonus each year instead of a raise. All recently received a $3,500 retention bonus from the state.

There will now be 8 steps instead of 10 in the contract, allowing junior members to make more money at a faster rate.

What did the union give up?

Concessions include no more money for the $25,000 Stress Relief Fund. Each trooper instead gets a $500 stipend for wellness. Civilian pilots can now fly Trooper 1 & 2, the state police helicopters, and state police airplanes. A sworn officer will still be on board.

Matthews says a lot of factors have been in play over the last several years.

“It has been a rough couple of years for our troops working through COVID. Police accountability really affected morale. A lot of criticism from the public un-deservingly. And just you know, I think that the time has come where the troopers are deservingly so getting what they can do to take care of their families,” Matthews said.

“Our state police deserve the best for their courage, dedication, and commitment to protecting public safety, and this contract will give them greater opportunity to continue doing good on behalf of our communities with better wages, education, training, and professional development benefits,” a spokesperson for Governor Ned Lamont said. “Most importantly, the governor is grateful for the men and women of the Connecticut State Police who put their lives on the line day after day.”

The CSP Union believes this contract makes them the highest-paid law enforcement in New England.

“We do believe we are the highest paid, and deservingly so. Our troopers risked their lives every day to protect the public,” said Matthews.

The general assembly must approve the details of the contract before it goes into effect.