California Highway Patrol officers to get their biggest raise in almost 20 years

Paul Kitagaki Jr./pkitagaki@sacbee.com

California Highway Patrol officers will receive a 6.2% raise this year — more than twice the general salary increase paid to any other group of state workers — under the unique terms of their union contract.

The state Human Resources Department recently posted to its website the annual survey used to determine CHP officers’ pay. This year’s increase, raising an officer’s starting pay to nearly $111,000 per year, will be paid retroactive to July 1.

While other state employee unions negotiate annual changes to their pay, CHP officers’ raises are tied to the pay of five local police departments in San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego and Los Angeles, where two departments are included.

Not counting overtime, CHP officers in the department’s entry-level pay range earned about $104,000 last year — more than the San Diego Police Department but less than the other four.

The five departments averaged about $110,800 for the year, with the San Francisco Police Department leading the way at about $130,000.

A 6.2% raise will bring CHP officers up to the average pay for the five departments as required by a 1974 state law.

Most other state employees received general salary increases of 2.5% in July under negotiated multi-year union agreements with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration. Small groups of state workers in hard-to-fill classifications received additional raises that bumped their pay up by as much as 16% over three years.

This year’s raise for CHP is among the largest for the officers in the last 20 years, exceeded only by those paid in the fiscal years ending in 2004 and 2005, according to a Legislative Analyst’s Office report and CalHR surveys. In the rare years when average pay for the other departments dropped, CHP officers’ pay remained flat.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office has long criticized the formula, which is based on pay for departments in the most expensive parts of the state.

The office called for rescinding the automatic increases in 2007. In 2019 it suggested changing the formula to include lower-cost areas with large concentrations of officers such as Greater Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley. The Legislature did not make the recommended change.

Despite the relatively large pay hikes, the CHP is struggling to hire. In June it launched a campaign to fill 1,000 officer vacancies over the next few years, citing its starting pay as a recruitment draw. At the time the department employed about 6,650 officers, according to figures provided by a spokeswoman.