Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said today he will lay off 56 new state troopers and 23 correction supervisors represented by the only two bargaining units to reject elements of a concession deal that would have provided job security for four years.
And while Malloy insisted that the public would not feel the impact of the trooper layoffs, the state police’s chief administrator, Reuben F. Bradford, said investigative functions would be weakened and certain response times slowed down.
“It’s not a decision I wanted to make,” Malloy said following a late morning meeting with commissioners at the Capitol. “As everybody in this state knows, I’ve done everything in my power to avoid layoffs.”
Malloy was referring to two tentative deals reached earlier this year with state employee unions, with each deal designed to save $1.6 billion over two years through concessions. Though the first deal failed, the second was adopted for the most part earlier this month, the Connecticut State Police Union and CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 — which represents about 600 prison guard supervisors — rejected a key component, a two-year wage freeze.
The state police union ratified the pension-and-health portion of the concession deal approved Thursday by the other 14 unions, but the no-layoff guarantee was conditioned on acceptance of the wage freeze.
Both the troopers and correction supervisors are receiving 2.5 percent raises this fiscal year, but through their votes they also waived their right to four years of protection against layoffs.
After the first concession vote failed, the administration issued about 3,000 pink slips across most of state government in July and August. The 56 served to troopers focused on a new rookie class having just completed training.
Some of those troopers will lose their jobs Wednesday, with other layoffs coming in phases as troopers in specialized units are prepared to return to uniformed duty patrolling the state’s highways.
Others will continue on, likely for about two weeks, as troopers on desk and special assignments receive “refresher” training to prepare them to return to duty on the streets, the governor said.
“I don’t believe the public will feel the adverse impact,” Malloy said of the layoffs, which will reduce the overall trooper workforce from 1,127 to 1,071 — well below the statutorily mandated level of 1,248.
But Bradford, who is commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said that while “front-line public safety will not be affected,” investigative functions and response times would likely be impacted. That means “less people at the scenes” of incidents, and staff assigned to auto theft and narcotics investigatory units would be “substantially reduced,” the commissioner said.
And Sgt. Andrew Matthews, president of the state police union, said Tuesday that these layoffs, coupled with anticipated retirements and a new Malloy directive to all agencies to curtail overtime, cannot help but affect services. “Our numbers are already stretched thin.”
As a gubernatorial candidate last fall, Malloy stated “that he refused to place a dollar value on the safety of Connecticut residents,” Matthews said, charging that these layoffs contradict that position. A Malloy campaign position paper stated that “we must …ensure that Connecticut meets and exceeds statutorily required State Police staffing levels.”
The governor said Tuesday that while he hadn’t researched the full history of that statute, it appears that the legislature set that total to define the trooper workforce under “optimal times.
“Suffice it to say,” he added, “these are not optimal times.”
Matthews said the governor’s most recent position on acceptable trooper staffing levels would affect more than public safety. “we’re extremely disappointed,” the union leader said. “It’s going to strain even more so our relationship with the governor’s office.” The state police union went on the offensive Monday morning, holding a rally outside the state Capitol that attracted hundreds of troopers, other law enforcement officers and their families.
Malloy, a Democrat, relied heavily on union support last fall to eke out a narrow victory on Election Day over Greenwich Republican Tom Foley.
The governor seemed disinclined Monday to lay off the troopers, noting the state already had invested $4 million in their training. But rewarding the only union to reject a wage freeze apparently was less palatable to Malloy.
More than 100 veteran troopers are expected to retire this fiscal year. And though the administration has warned it would be very cautious about limiting it refilling of vacancies across all state government, Malloy said Tuesday that “I hope we will be in a position to rehire some of this talent” facing layoffs now.
Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, who is a local police officer, criticized the layoffs as shortsighted.
“The governor himself said that nearly $4 million has been invested to train these young troopers. But because members voted against a two year wage freeze, after already coping with a freeze under Governor Rell, they now face layoffs,” Witkos said. “This is an absolute waste of trained professionals and now an even larger waste of millions of taxpayer dollars and state investment.”
Staff Writer Jacqueline Rabe contributed to this article.