Letter to the Editor: A Solution for Troopers Wanting Pay for Commute Time in Marked Cars


I have a solution for the Washington State Patrol (WSP) troopers who think they should be paid for their commuting time in WSP marked cars.

"WSP should only provide vehicles when troopers are on duty. Troopers should commute in their own vehicles on their own money and definitely on their own time." 

Kind of like the rest of us.

I suspect that will not happen, but I can see no clear advantage for the citizens of this state to pay a salary for commuting time. The current situation saves troopers a significant amount of money for fuel, maintenance, wear and tear, general upkeep on a vehicle, insurance, etc., and is a significant employee benefit.

Isn't that enough? 

I don't know how long the WSP has provided this, but I suggest that additionally paying troopers an additional hour (30 minutes each way), or more, per day, may not be a good investment and would be a significant cost. (Are they seriously asking to increase their salary by up to 12 and a half percent, and many even more for a longer commute?).

If their $400 million tort claim has any relevance to the cost of doing this, the benefits need to be clearly shown, and not speculated about.

Does paying a salary to WSP troopers in marked WSP vehicles on the road commuting to and from work help traffic safety, or general safety, in a significant way? If so, it should be proven in a factual and cost effective way, not a subjective report written by those that gain by it, or "anecdotal evidence."   

This would cost a lot of money and, if approved, should be well justified. It seems to me that providing a vehicle and all the related vehicle costs, as done now, is a fair trade for the idea that the mere presence of a marked patrol vehicle might make things safer during those commute times.

Either way, of course troopers should be paid for their time on any legitimate emergency call they are required to respond to when off duty, in a state vehicle or not. I note that, while commuting, for more routine stops "of choice," like a minor traffic stop, should generally not be covered. That is not their job on their way to work and could lead to abuse. I suspect that many of the allegations that WSP "often underpays or declines to pay them in response" falls in this category.

Finally, this would set a precedent for the many other agencies where officers and troopers commute in government vehicles. This fact is not lost on the police unions and could have significant and wide ranging impacts around the country, so it needs to be dealt with seriously, with all impacts considered.


Mel Kemper