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Longevity bonuses hope to delay retirement for career WA State troopers

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(The Center Square) – Veteran Washington State Patrol troopers are being enticed to postpone retirement under a bill signed into law today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The legislation is motivated by dangerously low staffing levels at WSP and offers a $15,000 longevity bonus for troopers who have served at least 26 years to stay on a bit longer before retirement.

Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, co-sponsored the bill.

“There are innumerable reasons over the last few years as to why law enforcement numbers are as low as they are,” he told The Center Square. “Changes in legislation, decriminalization of drugs, COVID and vaccine mandates, you name it, it’s all come into play and put us in a bad place.”

“We have a problem, we have to fix it, and this is an element as a solution for now because we need time to rebuild.”

Jason Linn, WA state patrol captain, testified in support of the bill during a public hearing.

“There are more than 170 vacancies in the field every single day, which is about a 25% rate statewide,” he said. “With over 122 folks eligible to retire in 2024, that will significantly contribute to impacts on our organization.”

WA State Patrol Captain Deion Glover tells The Center Square, “This is a nice opportunity for our senior employees to entice them to stay instead of looking for another job or career and this will hopefully fill our attrition rates as we gain new recruits who can gain that knowledge from our senior troopers.”

Asked specifically about the longevity bonuses impacting pension rates and, ultimately, taxpayers, Glover made clear that the bonuses won’t represent a long-term burden.

“This is not pension eligible and does not go toward their average final salary. This is just paid out in four installments over the year after your 26th year,” said Glover.

They don’t know how many officers will decide to stay on because of the bonus, he said.

“Anytime you lose people out of the ranks that have what we call institutional knowledge and the experience of all the and training, it’s too hard to quantify the value of that loss,” he said. “It’s just immeasurable how important that is, and when we’re looking at our overall strategy, knowing we have to rebuild our ranks, we start with new classes and new recruits, but it takes a long period of time for a brand new recruits after the academy and everything else to gain that experience that only comes from time.”

Barkis says they were aware in considering the bill that it was important to not have the bonuses included in pension numbers for retirement.

“We wanted to make sure that we are thinking about the taxpayers at the same time,” he said.