DPS to cut retire/rehire program which will eliminate 117 troopers

DPS State Trooper patrol vehicle.
FILE - DPS State Trooper patrol vehicle. (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Public Safety wants to cut the agency’s retire/rehire program for commissioned officers as a way to slash its budget.

While an official memo to the media has not been sent, KXAN obtained a letter DPS Director Steven McCraw sent out regarding the “layoffs.” The Texas State Troopers Association also confirmed to KXAN the letter was sent by McCraw.

In the letter, it states the DPS proposed to the Public Safety Commission (which had a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, Dec. 21) that 117 DPS commissioned officers currently employed under the retire/rehire program be cut from the department by May 31, 2018.

During this year’s legislative session, the agency was told to cut $50 million from its balance sheet. According to the Legislative Budget Board, DPS’ general revenue fund from 2016 to 2017 dropped from $995,045,833 to $946,955.744.

According to the letter, the agency won’t have to cut any of its non-commissioned employees since they’ve been able to reduce the number through attrition.

“Unfortunately, attrition alone will not address the required reduction in commissioned officer positions,” wrote McCraw. The PSC approved the recommendation to dismiss the 117 “retired” and “rehired” officers. The agency says an additional 60 commissioned positions will be eliminated through attrition.

DPS says the 117 employees are currently drawing a retirement annuity in addition to a monthly salary. Retirees will be assisted in the transition by the department’s Human Resources Bureau.

Bob Gorsky, an attorney for the Texas Department of Public Safety Officers Association, says they’re “disturbed’ by the agency’s decision to eliminate “older, fully qualified and highly trained Texas state troopers.”  The union believes the dismissals “will have a disparate impact upon these 117 state troopers based upon their age and should be withdrawn.”

Senior Trooper Thomas Nipper, 63, who died while conducting a traffic stop in Temple in November, was one of the commissioned officers who retired and came back under the retire/rehire program.

It appears this is one of the many ways DPS has tried to trim its waistline this year.

In June, DPS decided to cut business hours at 11 driver’s license offices across the state due to budget cuts. However, when customers complained and lawmakers got involved, the agency backpedaled on the cuts, stating, “The decision to resume extended hours came after discussion with state leaders and state legislators. The Driver License Division will explore other options and efficiencies in order to keep the extended-hour schedule in place.”

The following month, the agency told law enforcement agencies across the state its crime lab will start charging for various testing services. In a letter to local law enforcement agencies, said the agency’s goal is to “develop a model that will minimize the cost for forensic analysis while generating enough revenue to fund the continued operation of the laboratory system as directed.”

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