Texas state troopers are proud of their past, but worried about their future.

A 2008 state audit found the turnover rate for trooper trainees at about 21 percent in part because of low pay.

The study also found pay levels for senior troopers are not competitive with the average maximum pay of (top) local law enforcement departments.

It has been very difficult to keep some of our best people, said Don Dickson, a spokesman with the Texas State Troopers Association.

In the their last session, Texas lawmakers approved raises for state troopers ranging from 2.4 percent for trainees to 9.1 percent for captains.

But a News 8 review of executive salaries at the Department of Public Safety tells a different story.

In the last two years, the deputy director's annual salary was boosted by 25 percent to $157,500. Five division chiefs now make $124,500, up 21 percent.

And the emergency management director's pay soared 43 percent to $147,500.

Two years ago, DPS had just 11 employees earning more than $100,000 a year; today there are 31, including the addition of a second deputy director with a $212,000 salary.

It's difficult to see the department spending the money on these managers while troopers' standards of living remain flat or even decline, Dickson said.

The top pay increases are the direct result of a $1 million consultant's report. It recommended among other things adding top more managers and paying competitive salaries.

And that's what's happened.

So far, DPS is getting high marks from lawmakers and even troopers for modernizing its operation.

There is no one in the Texas Department of Public Safety that is overpaid, with the exception of me, said DPS Director Col. Steve McCraw in a written statement to News 8. Our most underpaid employees are our Troopers, Agents and Rangers who risk their lives daily to protect Texas.

The Colonel and I are on the same page on that, Dickson said. We need to get the legislature on the same page as well.

Historically, that has proven to be a challenge. And with a state budget shortfall this year, it may be impossible.

That means the ability to hire and retain top managers at DPS may improve but the ranks they supervise may not be filled with the best and brightest.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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