Why another budget “crisis?” Excessive State Police bennies (among other reasons)


A disturbing sidelight to the successive budget “crises” is the things you learn about where some of the money goes in that $44 billion monstrosity called the State of Michigan budget.

For example, the political class and its mainstream media adjunct are about to get all breathless about State Police layoffs that are reportedly under discussion. The MIRS newsletter says that 81 spanking-new state troopers fresh out of police academy will be eliminated, although the jobs might be “saved” if some 70 older cops are bribed with a pension boost to retire early, and presumably forego entering a “DROP” program.

What is a DROP program, you ask? It amounts to pension double dipping scheme:

Troopers start getting a portion of their pension while still working and simultaneously collecting their regular salary. The amount of pension they can collect is 30 percent the first year, 50 percent the second, and then increases 10 percent each year until eventually they are getting full pension and full pay before they have retired. The money is not paid out to them immediately but is deposited into an interest-bearing retirement account they get when they really retire.

That’s nuts, of course. No sane private sector employer would give away such a benefit.


So why are Michigan taxpayers expected to foot the bill for one? See previous posts in this blog including “The people vs. the political class” and others, which describe the how our state and nation are being ruled by an inbred, self-serving, self-perpetuating and bipartisan political class that plays handmaiden to public employees and their unions, which use their bulging, tax-nourished political muscles to call the tunes that legislators dance to.


Of course the Michigan State Police are part of that tune-calling government class – don’t let the fancy uniforms fool you.

In short, we are burdened with a “DROP” program because legislators abandoned their fiduciary duty to be responsible stewards of the public fisc and gave away a huge pile of loot to a powerful public employee union.

The rationale under which that caper was foisted on taxpayers was that Michigan State Police are eligible to retire and collect their pensions after just 25 years of service with no minimum age. As a result it’s not uncommon to have age 40-something men and women in the prime of life eligible to call it a career and head for the beaches, spending the last 35-40 years of their lives lounging at taxpayer expense.

Needless to say this causes potential staffing problems at the MSP. Rather than fix the problem in a rational and fiscally prudent way – establish a minimum age of say 55 or 65 before an individual can start collecting a pension – the political class gave away some boodle in the form of a goofy DROP program as an incentive to keep troopers working.

Pretty sweet deal, huh? Sweet for the troopers, but not for the taxpayers. And just one more example of why you should never believe a politician who says, “Our budget has been cut to the bone.”   



5 Responses to “Why another budget “crisis?” Excessive State Police bennies (among other reasons)”

  1. Dan Obarski Says:

    Let’s start at the beginning. First of all, to run a recruit school for the very well received, professional, courteous, results producing, Michigan Department of State Police, applicants have to pass the state’s Civil Service Exam to become eligible. That exam is run by the Civil Service Commission (a state agency that requires to be paid for their services-how novel).

    Once they become eligible it takes around a hundred current troopers to perform background checks on the information provided by the thousands – sometimes tens of thousands – applicants. That takes troopers off the road responding to citizen complaints of murders, robberies, thefts, assaults and of coarse the ever annoying reckless, drunk drivers or speeders putting every other driver’s safety at risk.

    Then, to run a recruit school, it takes instructors. Those who have been doing the job long enough to pass on what they know or have experienced to those trying to learn. This, in turn, takes troopers off the road. The recruits spend Sunday afternoon through late Friday night at the academy. Away from homes; wives, husbands and children so there is some monetary compensation, about $13.00 an hour based on a 40 hour work week and 10 hours of overtime. Let’s see, 24 hours a day 5 days a week (120 hours a week and being paid for 50- let’s see the private sector put up with that). Most people leave higher paying jobs for the honor of becoming a Michigan State Trooper. Not to mention the cost of running the school – for 100 recruits (usually only 70-80% make it through though), it costs roughly 4-5 million dollars for the 4 1/2 to 5 month endeavor. After all, the State Police rents the academy building, grounds and food services from the State of Michigan.

    After the school is complete and they have moved from the classroom to the real world, the new troopers have to be with their Field Training Officers (FTO phase). For those that don’t know, an FTO is an experienced trooper that the new trooper is partnered up with for several months. The FTO evaluates the new troopers abilities to interact with the public, handle stressful situations, apply the laws of this great state and drive, along with numerous other factors. After all, you wouldn’t put a doctor fresh out of Med School in the E.R. without some experienced doctor making sure their actions were appropriate, safe, justified and let’s face it legal.

    After the new trooper passes this phase there is one more test. The administration brings each new trooper in for an interview on legal questions and scenarios. This is to make sure that person is able to take what they learned in the school, with their FTO and apply it to the real world on their own. If the administration approves, that trooper is now able to be on their own.

    Overall, this is a process starting with the Civil Service test to being approved to be on their own that can take over two years. Don’t you think it might be wise to try and hold on to a few hundred experienced but, as you put it, “…age 40-something men and women in the prime of life…” until this process is complete. If you think about it, it takes two years to make a trooper.

    Now, let’s take a look at the job itself. The trooper, while working for the citizens of this great state, are expected to be courteous, fair and polite in all situations. But not the citizens they deal with. Yes, it is stressful and inconvenient to have a State Trooper (or any police officer) show up at your doorstep looking for your son who has a warrant for his arrest because he stole some poor old woman’s identity and racked up several thousands of dollars on her credit cards. But, while the trooper is trying to explain the situation and bring this person to justice, he is being confronted by a very angry family member who doesn’t want you to take poor little JOHNNY away. If the trooper isn’t perceived as polite, courteous or fair, then by all means the citizen has the right to complain, even bring legal action on some civil rights claim if they FEEL wronged.

    Troopers (or any police officer) have to make split second decisions of life or death (theirs or someone elses). Then afterwards be scrutenized by everyone if their actions were just. They get called out of their homes all hours of the day or night because a prisoner serving a life sentence for raping a 6 year old child broke out of prison and now they have to find them before something happens to the citizens. There’s 2 feet of snow, 40 cars and 10 semis piled up on I-94 but 3 Troopers are there sorting through the mess getting help to the injured and the roads cleared so you can get home to the dinner they won’t have for 4 more hours. But there’s gotta be something to doing that job because every year, thousands of people apply to become one. Only to be told there’s no academy this year but please put your life on hold in case the Legislature approves us to run one.

    If after 25 years of doing the job the trooper decided to leave, that’s a rarety. Usually they don’t make it 25 years. When you bring up the DROP PROGRAM, that was a response the department had to make due to the Legislature’s approval of producing 1 academy of 100+ Troopers for nearly 7 years. Now there are nearly 1100 on the road troopers for the entire state. Or nearly 13 Troopers per county with 82 counties.

    The DROP PROGRAM does sound like a pretty sweet deal for the trooper. But, all that money being put into an interest bearing account (based on only 60% of the average of the last 2 years of wages), can’t be touched until the trooper leaves employment. If the trooper leaves before 6 years, he only gets a percentage of the money. Not to mention the trooper in the DROP PROGRAM is now covered under the retiree’s benefit package, a health plan filled with more co-pays and less coverage.

    If your worried about the length of time the trooper will live on their pension after retiring, don’t worry, it won’t be long. The average life expectancy for any male police officer is 53-66 years old. Non-Police male is 73. Retire at 46 (earliest age possible if hired at 21) possibly dead in 7 years. Some golden years huh? Not to mention the rate of known suicide is between 2-6 x’s the average (depending on your study) american. But you’re right, let’s wait until the trooper is 55 or 60 before he can be given his pension. That way the state could save a boat load because the retired trooper won’t live that long to get it.

    As for the budget crisis, the fact that CEOs who have been running automakers into the ground for the past decade, have received yearly multi-million dollar BONUSES, now filing for bancruptcy after getting billions of dollars in aid and cutting hundreds of thousands of jobs therefore loosing billions in taxes and paying millions in unemployment is nothing. But hey, a little bonus (they may never live to see) for doing the job very few are able or want to do should be what this state gets concerned over. Your right, darn those Troopers.

  2. Mike Says:

    For once I agree with Jack. I don’t agree with eliminating the State Police Road Patrol, however. All this money is sitting in the retirement fund. Why not use it to cover the health care and other cost associated with workers staying past 25 years. If the Lansing calculator is right you should not have to fund the pension one penny if a worker works beyond 25 years so stop paying into it. Use pension funds to pay for benefits and bingo use the savings to hire more Troopers. Not how Lansing works. It was actually the Command Officers who came up with the idea of DROP. Guess how many years most of these guys have been in the MSP. You guessed it more than 25. This DROP program has nothing to do with public safety. I just basically outlined what should have been done with this money. Instead, the command officers found a way to pad their pockets, and the MSPTA followed behind. Seems to me this is a lot like what is going on in big business. BONUS BONUS BANKRUPTCY, or in the MSP it goes DROP DROP LAYOFF. I agree if you work past 25 years it’s your choice and you should not be paid extra for it. If you are staying only for the money what are you really worth anyway.

  3. Political Class “In the Tank” for Public Employees, Part Deux. « Jack McHugh’s Blog Says:

    […] also wrote just last week about how state police also get a pension “double dip” opportunity that would be […]

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