Vote 2022: New state troopers sworn in, but candidates clash over police shortage
Connecticut State Police swore in nearly three dozen new troopers on Thursday, but their ranks remain severely thin. Who – and what – is to blame has become a key issue in the race for governor.
The latest group of 33 troopers graduated at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. But training classes are getting smaller and shorter, as state police barely keep up with retirements. In 2009, Connecticut reached a peak of 1,283 state troopers. Today that number is just 879 – including the new class.
In a recent NBC Connecticut-Telemundo debate, Republican Bob Stefanowski blamed Connecticut's new police accountability law.
"Police officers -- their personal assets are at risk," he said. "Of course crime is down, because they're not following in high-speed chases anymore."
The job is also more dangerous, as evidenced by last week's deadly ambush in Bristol.
Gov. Ned Lamont has a strained relationship with rank-and-file troopers. In 2020, their union overwhelmingly voted "no confidence" in him and Emergency Services and Public Protection commissioner James Rovella. But Lamont dismissed the idea that the new police law is driving recruits away.
"There's a shortage of labor for police officers across the country, not just Connecticut," he said. "And there's a shortage in terms of nurses, in terms of IT executives and Episcopalian ministers."
Part of the trooper shortage is due to a 2017 labor deal, signed before Lamont was elected, that made it more attractive for state workers to retire by July 1. More than 5,000 of them did, despite a hike in pay and benefits approved this year.