OLA audit: Trooper wages have increased but still behind police officers in top positions

New State Patrol Wage Report

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(KSTP) – The Office of the Legislature Auditor (OLA) published a report on Friday morning highlighting the changes in pay for Minnesota State Patrol troopers compared to police officers across the state. It shows troopers are making gains in starting wages but still lagging behind many police departments in the top wages they can earn during their careers.

The report is a result of the Minnesota Legislature directing the OLA to review compensation for Minnesota troopers and police officers in large Minnesota cities.

The OLA was tasked with reviewing police departments in 34 cities across Minnesota and publishing compensation and benefit reports in 2021, 2024, 2027 and 2030.

For this second report, which had to be published by Jan. 15, OLA reviewed compensation rates for 2022.

While appreciative of raises the Minnesota Legislature mandated in 2020 and 2021, the head of the Minnesota State Troopers Association says the State Patrol’s wages still lag behind many local police departments.

“Which is a bit difficult for state troopers and state law enforcement to accept that low ranking when compared to our comparison group,” Mike LeDoux told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Friday. LeDoux is president of the Minnesota State Troopers Association.

After examining all of the data, OLA officials say base starting wages for troopers are now 2% higher than police officers. However, the base top wage for troopers was 8% lower than the median top wage available to police officers.

In 2020 and 2021, the Legislature mandated a combined 10.45% top-wage level increase for State Patrol troopers and an 8.45% increase in all other troopers’ wages.

According to the OLA’s 2024 report, which included factors like salary range reassignments and contract negotiations, between 2019 and 2022, the base starting wages for troopers increased by 19.6%, and base top wages increased by 22.1%.

Those figures represent a higher percentage increase for troopers than for city police officers in most of the cities the OLA examined. However, the Troopers Association points out the city police wages were already higher before trooper wages started accelerating.

LeDoux says Minnesota State Patrol wages should at least be at the median or above local police departments.

“I like to say that state troopers and state law enforcement officers are not average. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect them to be paid at or above the average of the group that was established by the legislature in 2020,” Ledoux said.

OLA officials say one of the possible reasons for discrepancies in pay may be due to State Patrol retirement benefits.

State Patrol troopers can qualify for early retirement incentives, which officials say help cover the cost of post-retirement health insurance, a benefit not typically available to city police. Troopers also pay a smaller portion of health insurance premiums than officers in most city police departments.

Additionally, troopers get more generous starting and maximum vacation leave than police officers in most cities, according to OLA.

A full copy of OLA’s report can be found below.