Watchdog

Idaho State Police overtime payments to trainees surge

Idaho State Police trainees racked up an average 287 hours of overtime apiece in 16 weeks of training, mostly by commuting from housing at Gowen Field to ISP’s headquarters in Meridian.
Idaho State Police trainees racked up an average 287 hours of overtime apiece in 16 weeks of training, mostly by commuting from housing at Gowen Field to ISP’s headquarters in Meridian. doswald@idahostatesman.com

Update: Idaho State Police spokesperson Teresa Baker said Wednesday that ISP employees do not get paid for commute times. “Our recruits travel in one vehicle as a class during the academy. They normally are on campus during ATC [advance training class] so this was different,” she said referring to the recruits being housed at Gowen Field because ISP’s dorms were full. “Our patrol troopers do start patrol when they leave their residence for the day but patrol work is the nature of their job.”

During a 16-week Idaho State Police training academy for new troopers, 16 recruits accrued 4,592 hours of overtime — an average of 18 hours per recruit each week that ISP attributes mainly to freeway commutes.

The starting pay for these troopers, who were commissioned in December after the academy training ended, is $19.48 an hour, about $40,000 a year. The state pays time and a half for overtime, so the overtime bill for that class is $134,164, an average of $8,385 per recruit. That’s the equivalent of a 21 percent bonus in first-year pay.

The overtime is a three-fold increase over the prior class, which graduated in March 2015. Those 16 recruits, paid $18.92 an hour, accrued 1,526 hours of overtime valued at $43,297, an average of 95 hours per recruit or $2,706 each.

The Idaho Statesman obtained the overtime data from the State Controller’s Office in a public records request. The office pays and keeps payroll records for state workers.

The State Police says about two-thirds of the overtime is for commutes to and from the training academy.

“There was not enough room in the dorms at POST [Peace Officer Standards and Training Academy] to house our recruits along with the other academies being taught at POST,” spokeswoman Teresa Baker said in an email. “Therefore, our recruits were housed in barracks at Gowen Field.”

The recruits traveled from Gowen Field to ISP’s campus in Meridian in the morning and returned in the evening, she said.

“At roughly 1.5 to 2 hours a day for the 16-week period, the time did add up,” Baker said. “This time accounts for roughly 180 hours of overtime per recruit.”

It was not clear why ISP believed it necessary to pay for the trainees’ commuting times. An after-hours call to Baker to follow up on her email was not immediately returned.

According to Google Maps, an online mapping website, the distance between Gowen Field, which is near the Boise Airport, and ISP’s campus, which is near the Meridian Road interchange on Interstate 84, is 11 miles and takes about 15 minutes to drive each way.

While housed at Gowen Field, the class did team-building training in the evening, and that required overtime too, Baker said.

The recruits’ compensation for overtime is a combination of time off and payment. The agency does not yet know exactly how much the overtime cost because some of it has not yet been paid in either money or time off.

“ISP training recognized the increase in overtime and is evaluating our return on the team-building exercises,” Baker said. “We anticipate a reduction in the overtime hours approved for future academy team-building exercises after classroom hours are completed.”

ISP Major Steve Richardson oversees the recruit training program. Baker would not say if he approved the overtime.

Richardson is retiring at the end of April after 32 years of service.

“Major Richardson’s retirement is not associated in any way with the increase in overtime identified during our last academy class,” Baker said.

Meridian Republican Rep. Joe Palmer, who introduced a bill to remove ISP from the state fuel tax distribution fund and have all of the agency’s funding come from the general fund, said he was unaware of the overtime, and it was not a factor in his proposal, which did not pass.

ISP’s budget this fiscal year is $71 million. Lawmakers last month approved a $77 million budget for the year starting July 1.

Palmer said he would not comment on the overtime until he talked to ISP.

“I trust Director [Ralph] Powell,” he said. “He does a good job with his money.”

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

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