Editorial roundup – June 22

State police pay rates need a boost

KPC News

State legislators have agreed to review the pay scale for Indiana State Police officers this summer.

We hope the State Budget Committee members are shocked by what they find.

Earlier this year, lawmakers approved a 2 percent pay raise for state troopers. That makes a start, but it doesn’t begin to solve the problem.

The Indiana State Police should represent the very finest in Hoosier law enforcement. From what we’ve seen, the agency lives up to that reputation in professionalism and results.

But pay for state police officers does not reflect their quality.

State Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, is a former LaPorte County sheriff. He asked for the committee review of state police salaries because he worries about state troopers leaving the force to find higher pay.

Until this year, state troopers had not received a pay raise since 2007. The idea at that time was to help state police salaries keep up with other police agencies.

Over the next eight years, legislators dropped the ball for state police pay, forgetting to grant any more raises, while other state employees were receiving occasional increases in spite of a struggling economy.

Where do those years of neglect leave state police officers in relation to their law enforcement colleagues?

Not counting the raises that start July 1, a state trooper on probationary status starts at $38,444 per year and earns $40,100 after one year. The new raises will add about $800 per year to those levels.

A Fort Wayne patrol officer earns a little more than $44,000 in the probationary year and $49,000 after completing the first year, according to that department’s website.

The Associated Press reports that an Indianapolis police officer earns nearly $63,000 after three years. That exceeds the top of the scale at $60,000 for a 20-year state trooper.

State police officers do receive seniority increases of about 2 percent per year. Officers can earn more by advancing in rank.

Arnold said he believes state troopers have been overlooked while the state was building up its cash reserves to nearly $2 billion, AP reported.

In a letter to a newspaper, a veteran state police officer from Shelbyville compared this year’s raises to “pouring a bucket of water on a forest fire.” He continued, “… I can only conclude that, while I am expected to put my life on the line every day for the citizens of Indiana, my life and service really have no value from a political perspective.”

State police officers face danger on the highways on a regular basis, but they do much more than patrol our major roads. State troopers have authority to investigate all crimes in the state.

We believe Indiana State Police officers do their jobs with excellence. We hope legislators will act to put troopers’ pay in line with their colleagues from other police departments.

Let counties be proactive with needle exchange programs

South Bend Tribune

One of the major wins to come out of a less than stellar legislative session was the bipartisan law that allows Indiana counties to establish needle exchange programs.

The law, a reaction to the HIV crisis stemming from the sharing of dirty needles in Scott County, passed on a bipartisan vote and was signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence, who opposed needle exchanges and earlier had threatened to veto such a bill.

A few weeks ago, Scott County became the first county to use the law to distribute clean needles to IV drug users for the next year.

As in a previous editorial, we commend legislators for stepping up to react to a desperate, pressing situation. It’s the reactive nature of the solution that has invited some concern, however. In order to receive approval for the needle exchange, the law requires a county to prove it’s in the midst of an epidemic.

More than a few have wondered if waiting for an HIV outbreak to happen, and then responding to it, is the best approach.

Last month, the Tippecanoe County Board of Health sent a letter to Gov. Mike Pence and Dr. Jerome Adams, the state health commissioner, asking them to relax the requirements to implement a needle exchange program.

“Instead of waiting for an epidemic to occur, if we see a trend, (county health departments) could initiate a needle exchange program at that point and prevent it from reaching epidemic levels like it did in Scott County,” Dr. Jeremy Adler, Tippecanoe County health officer, told the Lafayette Journal and Courier.

The need to be proactive couldn’t be clearer. The factors that helped create the crisis in Scott County — a lack of available testing locations and public education about HIV prevention, and deep cuts to health care funding — are hardly unique. Beth Meyerson, co-director of the Rural Center for AIDS/STD prevention at Indiana University, has said that she wouldn’t be surprised if the HIV crisis spreads to other rural areas in the coming months.

County officials shouldn’t have to wait for that to happen before they can act.