Watchdog

Idaho State Police recant overtime explanation

Idaho State Police headquarters in Meridian. Previously, ISP said up to 2 hours per day of the overtime piled up by its most recent class of recruits came from daily round trips trainees made between the headquarters and their barracks at Gowen Field. ISP now says it was mistaken.
Idaho State Police headquarters in Meridian. Previously, ISP said up to 2 hours per day of the overtime piled up by its most recent class of recruits came from daily round trips trainees made between the headquarters and their barracks at Gowen Field. ISP now says it was mistaken. doswald@idahostatesman.com

Earlier this week Idaho State Police said a threefold increase in overtime accrued by its most recent class of recruits to complete an advanced training class was due mainly to time the 16 recruits spent commuting to and from the training site. Now ISP says that is not the case.

“The recruits traveled from Gowen Field to our campus in Meridian in the morning and then back in the evening,” ISP said Tuesday. “At roughly 1.5 to 2 hours a day for the 16-week period, the time did add up. This time accounts for roughly 180 hours of overtime per recruit.”

ISP spokeswoman Teresa Baker now says internal conversations after Statesman stories this week about the overtime led the agency to change its story.

“Upon further discussion on the overtime hours, it has become evident that the ATC 43 [advance training class No. 43] recruits were, in fact, not paid for commuting between Gowen Field and ISP’s campus in Meridian,” Baker said in an email Thursday.

Baker later said the overtime was due to an additional 87.5 hours of new coursework for that class.

During a 16-week ISP training academy for new troopers late last year, the 16 recruits accrued 4,592 hours of overtime — an average of 18 hours per recruit each week.

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

The prior 16-recruit class, which graduated in March 2015, accrued 1,526 hours of overtime — an average of six hours per recruit each week.

Recruits typically are housed on ISP’s Meridian campus, but the dorms were full during the most recent class, so the recruits stayed in barracks at Gowen Field.

Baker said the agency’s “error was due to the assumption that because the class was paid for physical training and other training tasks at Gowen Field before they traveled in a van together to ISP, that the commute time was included in their paid time for the day. This was also the assumption for their return trip to Gowen Field in the evening, as recruits were paid for time spent on training and exercises that they did after classroom hours.”

The commutes “did extend the time that was needed in a day to complete the training requirements and made the logistics of a day more challenging,” she said.

“As previously stated, ISP recognized the increase in overtime and is continuing to look for ways to minimize the amount of overtime required for the effective training of new troopers.”

The recruits’ compensation for overtime is a combination of time off and payment. About four weeks of overtime per recruit have been used for time off, she said.

Baker said long days during training are routine.

“The nature of training for the dangerous job in law enforcement is that a recruit class is challenged physically and mentally in an academy setting,” she said. “It is extremely important that a state trooper be able to handle the physical and mental demands of the job before being placed in a situation where knowledge, skill, training and preparation may mean life or death for the trooper or the public.

“This type of preparation means that days in the academy are not 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. A typical day while in training begins at 5 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. However, there are many days when training requires hours extending well into the night and weekends as low light is needed for training scenarios such as DUI, traffic stops, crash investigation, arrest techniques and firearms. These are the realities of performing the job duties of a state trooper, and ISP trains for them.”

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

Related stories from Idaho Statesman

  Comments