LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Cabinet Secretary for the Arkansas Department of Public Safety Jami Cook said the goal is to help with low retention and recruitment numbers by raising starting pay and incremental pay based on rank and other factors.

“The numbers tell a very real story,” Cook said. “There’s less folks wanting to do this job.”

Cook said it’s time for a shakeup in pay for our law enforcement officers.

“They have a heart to do this, but they also got families to support” she said.

Cook says a $7.4 million investment would do just that.

“If we have expectations as high as we do for law enforcement, which are fair expectations, we have to be fair with the investment,” Cook said.

Arkansas lags behind its neighbors Missouri, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas when it comes to starting pay that sits now at about $46,500 a year.  

The proposal would put Arkansas’ state police salaries only behind Texas in the southern region states.

Cook said they haven’t finalized the formula yet, but their hope is that starting pay will be between $52,000 to $55,000 a year.

Cook said the investment would also help with struggling recruitment numbers.

In 2013, more than 1,300 people applied to be Arkansas State Police troopers.

“In 2022, for the school that we’re about to start, we had 226,” Cook said.

Some critics of the proposal say local law enforcement agencies will lose officers for higher pay with the state.

Cook said that’s not a new worry since, historically, they’ve had higher salaries than most local and county departments anyway.

“What we hope is that as we raise salaries, that local and county governing bodies will recognize that maybe they could try to figure out a way to reallocate some of their general funds and invest it into law enforcement,” Cook said.

Lawmakers will meet on February 14th for a session focused on the state budget.

If this proposal is approved, the new salaries will kick in at the start of the state’s fiscal year, which is July 1st.