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TX House, Senate Leadership Backing DPS Pay Increase, Stipends

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

Flanked by Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers and Texas Rangers clad in cowboy hats and boots, the presiding officers of the Texas House and Senate today said they want to add one more accessory to the state law enforcement officers' uniforms - a thicker wallet.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland), flanked by rows of DPS Troopers and Texas Rangers, today announced their support for a pay raise and stipend program aimed at making the state's law enforcement agency the "elite" law enforcement agency in the state.

Noting that DPS has taken on additional duties regarding homeland security following the terrorist attacks on the nation on Sept. 11, 2001, state officials said DPS officers are now charged with gathering intelligence, increasing random patrols at points of critical state infrastructures and undergoing additional training to help them deter, detect and respond to acts of terrorism.

According to Dewhurst, a new Criminal Intelligence Bureau within DPS with 179 new officers is being proposed to the Legislature, as is a pay increase and financial stipends for specialized training undertaken by DPS officers.

The lieutenant governor said the goal is to work out the details of a pay raise and stipend within a balanced budget. "The DPS must be our premier law enforcement agency in the state of Texas - an example for the nation," he said. Financial rewards "can show these officers their sacrifice does not go unnoticed."

The state currently has a problem recruiting men and women to serve as officers in the DPS, said House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland). "We want to make sure we not only recruit the best people possible, but that we keep them."

Brian Hawthorne, president of the DPS Officers Association, said the officers are simply seeking parity. "Let's try to keep the Department of Public Safety the best of the best," he said. Hawthorne said the average annual starting salary for DPS troopers is $30,000, and officers had their last pay raise in 1989.

He said the base salary for a trooper is $1,500 less than the average pay in cities such as Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Ft. Worth. An officer who has served 20 years at DPS will be making more than $14,000 less per year than the state average for law enforcement officers with 20 years tenure in those same cities. He said that causes problems for recruiting DPS officers from college graduates seeking a career in law enforcement or from former military officers. He said those would-be DPS officers will look at parity, and will realize quickly that if they stay for 20 years in DPS, their pay will be $14,000 per year less than they could earn in a major city's law enforcement agency.

Both Senate Finance Chair Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) and House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) said they will appoint work groups to study pay raises for state employees, including DPS officers.

"This is a starting point," said Dewhurst, citing again his commitment to a pay raise. However, he said the details regarding how much that increase will be have to be ironed out.

"I'd like to see the salaries raised to put them in a competitive pay level with police departments around the state," said the lieutenant governor, to help stop the "exodus of qualified men and women in DPS." He said the state spends a significant amount of money to train these officers and then by not paying them enough, the state becomes "the recruiting magnet for other law enforcement around the state."

Dewhurst told the gathered law enforcement officers that the people of the state appreciate what they do and stand behind them. "We thank you for putting on your badges every day to put Texas first and to protect us," he said.