Another View: Pay law is fair to CHP and taxpayers

Published: Saturday, Jul. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 10A

There are two reasons The Bee's editorial regarding the CHP pay parity law ("Don't link CHP salaries to pay of big city cops," July 23) was very disappointing. First, you suggest that the job of a CHP officer is not as dangerous as those with whom our salaries are tied. Second, the editorial is misleading on numerous accounts.

There are 223 CHP officers on the state memorial. No other agency has half that many names listed, even though most have been around nearly twice as long as the CHP.

Contrary to your insinuation, CHP officers have, far and away, the most dangerous law enforcement job in this state. This is a fact supported further by other statistics such as having the highest number of felony arrests and the most serious on-the-job injuries. This could have easily been found out.

The editorial states that our parity law "requires that CHP officers receive the average of what five of the highest-paid police agencies in the state pay their officers." Once more, this is misleading – a fact that I have pointed out at other times when The Bee has made this claim.

The parity statute was tied to the largest five agencies in the state at the time when Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the original law. As we have addressed many times, the average of the five largest agencies happens to place the parity law in the 50th percentile of pay for the largest 125 law enforcement agencies in the state.

The editorial states that Gov. Jerry Brown approved a 5.9 percent pay raise. The survey reflected a 5.9 percent discrepancy, but 1.9 percent was redirected to pay down retiree medical costs, an employer unfunded liability. Of the 4 percent remaining, 1.5 percent went toward increasing our members' retirement contribution, for a total contribution rate of 11.5 percent, reducing the actual pay increase to 2.5 percent.

The editorial notes that pay rates should be based on recruiting and retaining good workers. The CHP could not recruit cadets and academy classes were going half unfilled, even though entry-level standards had been reduced. Would it surprise you to learn that this occurred at the same time that Gov. Gray Davis agreed to a long-term plan to raise CHP pay to what the law recommended?

Finally, the editorial states that our agreement was irresponsible. I would point out that this association led the fight to pay down pension and retirement liabilities using our members' own money. We were the first to work with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to implement pension reform and a medical pre-funding account paying down long-term state liabilities.

Jon Hamm is CEO of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen.

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