Why I have thought about leaving the Colorado State Patrol
“I love my job. I love the Colorado State Patrol and what our organization represents for traffic safety and keeping people safe. One life lost is one too many. We need well-paid troopers to stay competitive, which over time, will increase the number of troopers on our roads.”
I began my career in 2003 with the Colorado State Patrol. Law Enforcement was a dream of mine since I started doing citizen ride-a-longs when I was 18 years old. I rode with the local Sheriff’s Office and with the local city police department. I actually got pulled over by a Colorado State Trooper for a brake light out. The Trooper (you know who you are Charlie) was tremendous and a great representative of what the agency is all about. I asked the Trooper if I could do a ride-a-long with him so I could learn more.
Over the next three years, I did ride-a-longs with multiple Colorado State Troopers and decided this was the career for me. I was in college when I applied to the agency. In 2003, I was hired by the Patrol and selected to start my career as a member of the Colorado State Patrol Class 2003-2. On day one of the Academy, we were told that step-pay raises were no longer in effect and a new program of Pay for Performance was how we would now receive pay raises throughout our careers.
The Academy was an eye-opening and challenging experience that highlighted what I would face over my now 19-year career on the road with the agency. I have had the opportunity to move all over the beautiful State of Colorado from duty
stations in Durango, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and Florence which is my current duty station here in Fremont County. I have been on the Colorado State Patrol Association’s (CSPA) board for 16 years representing the members of District 2. I have served as the Vice President of the CSPA since 2017. I see the remarkable things our Association does for our members and even non-members in creating the Trooper Bill of Rights, a hardship fund, college scholarships and so much more. Looking back on my career with the Colorado State Patrol, there have been highs and lows, but it is
a job I love to do. I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and skills with the new generation of Colorado State Troopers every day. However, with all of the knowledge, skills, training, and certifications over a 19-year career, I make the same paycheck as a brand-new road trooper fresh out of the Academy.
How did we get to a place where a seasoned Trooper makes the same amount as a brand-new Trooper? This is how; Pay for Performance. Over the last 22 years, Pay for Performance has only been funded three times. Three times in two decades! In Colorado, 70% of all State Troopers make within $200 of each other no matter how long one has dedicated their life to the State of Colorado and the Colorado State Patrol. This single reason has led to a mass exodus of troopers. Many troopers, after 5 to 7 years on the job, become discouraged knowing other individuals at other agencies are making more money because other agencies increase pay according to years of service. The Colorado State Patrol cannot remain staffed when we do not have predictable pay progression to keep our members with our agency. This rotating door of troopers leaving has led to 70% of our agency’s officers having 7 years or less experience! In my Troop Office, the next trooper in rank behind me has 11 years less experience. Where did 11 years’ worth of troopers go?
When the recent Request for Information (RFI) that was put forth before the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) came out, it was determined that Colorado State Troopers are underpaid by 11.35%. The Troopers Bill of Rights, which was signed into law in the year 2000 states, “Colorado State Troopers will be paid within 99% of the top 3 agencies in the State of Colorado that have 100 officers or more.” If the Troopers’ Bill of Rights was being followed as written in statute, then the question that should be asked is, “How did we get to be underpaid by 11.35%?” On average, we are losing 7 Troopers per month to retirements and separations. The number one reason given by Troopers that chose to leave employment with the Colorado State Patrol was the lack of pay and pay progression. Many leave for other agencies that pay more, offer more benefits, and value their members by recognizing their training and years of service.
I love my job. I love the Colorado State Patrol and what our organization represents for traffic safety and keeping people safe. One life lost is one too many. We need well-paid troopers to stay competitive, which over time, will increase the number of troopers on our roads. More troopers on our roads lead to a bigger impact on highway safety that the State of Colorado so desperately needs and deserves.
Have I thought about leaving the Colorado State Patrol? The answer is yes. Will I, that answer is no. I believe in Colorado, and I believe in our Colorado Legislative members. I believe that when they begin to follow the provisions of the Trooper Bill of Rights as it is written, along with the reintroduction of pay progression within our ranks, we will be competitive once again. In the end, traffic safety is about one thing. It’s all about saving lives. Please give us a competitive edge, so
we can do that for all Citizens of Colorado and make our roads safer again.