Grovetown, GA – Georgia State Patrol Post #25 in Grovetown is one of five in Troop E, which includes the districts Monroe, Madison, Milledgeville and Washington, to see more deaths on the Interstate. News Channel 6 took a closer look into the matter and it all comes down to money and what you do behind the wheel.
State Troopers have a tough job both day and night trying to keep the roads safe from crashes. They’re not always successful. Charles Chapeau thinks he knows why.
“We’re the lowest starting salary of any state agency in the country,” he said. “If you were in a job and didn’t get a pay raise for eight years. We’ve had a lot of turnover rate. People are leaving for other departments whether that be locally or other state agencies. Some are going to the private sector leaving law enforcement all together.”
During Fiscal Year 2015, 52 troopers left the department. 64 left for during FY2016. Chapeau, the President of Georgia Trooper Lodge #100, issued a “Facts and Figures Sheet” to state lawmakers at Fraternal Order of Police Day at the Capitol. It claims that recruiting and keeping troopers is tough due to pay.
When compared to other southern troopers’ pay, such as Texas which starts its troopers out at $60,613, Georgia remains at $35,741.
GSP Public Information Director Capt. Mark Perry said this disparity isn’t good for public safety.
“There is a correlation, especially with our numbers, of a decrease in troopers to an increase in fatalities,” said Capt. Perry.
In 2013, there were 670 fatalities. That number increased by 13 the following year, in 2014. And by 2015, there were 132 more fatalities.
The number of troopers patrolling the Interstate may be down, but Capt. Perry said there is something else that people are doing to contribute to the fatalities and it starts with not keeping both hands on the wheel focused on the road.
“Over the last couple of years in particular we’ve had the single vehicle run off the road, strike a tree distracted driving type contributing factors whether that be a radio, a cell phone, texting,” he explained.
The FOP is hoping lawmakers can help.
Chapeau added, “Hopefully, develop a plan where there’s step raises included so that when we recruit people we can tell them, hey if you’ve been on the state patrol for six years, there’s a step raise. You will make this much.”
Law Enforcement Appreciation Day is March 2 at the Georgia State Capitol. And the FOP feels it has the full support of those leaders.
Capt. Perry said by law, GSP is authorized to have 953 troopers. There were 770 troopers in positions as of January this year. Chapeau said 30 will graduate on March 18, but he estimates there would need to be more graduates and more graduations every year to reach the level the department needs to successfully operate.