A “tsunami” of buyouts among State Police leaving the force amid an onslaught of criticism has union officials sounding the alarm as an overtime scandal and dishonorable discharges also hound the agency.

State Police spokesman David Procopio confirmed Monday the number of retirements among the ranks “has increased,” but could not provide exact numbers to the Herald.

A review of state payroll data revealed state troopers are increasingly clamoring for their golden parachutes into retirement with buyouts for unused sick and vacation time. State Police have shelled out more than $5 million so far this year, topping the list of payouts by state departments despite having the fifth-largest budget.

More than $17.9 million has been paid out since 2017 to 727 officers with the number of officers receiving buyouts spiking from 65 to 209 last year with no signs of slowing this year, payroll records show.

“There are a few reasons for this enormous tsunami of buyouts are going to State Police, but the numbers are skyrocketing each year and I think the taxpayers have a legit beef with this,” said Greg Sullivan, research director at Pioneer Institute.

This year’s largest buyout so far — for $141,900– went to Maj. Thomas Majenski, who earned a total $159,072 by his last paycheck on Jan. 30.

Payroll records reveal the list of troopers receiving buyouts within the last year includes at least four troopers who were dishonorably discharged, as reported last week by the Boston Herald:

Sullivan, a former state inspector general, speculated troopers’ “rush to the exits” in the scandal-laden department is one mechanism fueling buyouts. Payouts of unused sick and vacation time are obligated by union bargaining agreements.

State Police Association of Massachusetts President Mike Cherven, on the other hand, called the bump in buyouts a symptom of “ongoing anti-police sentiment, the consistent understaffing and pay parity issues.”

“This is an issue we have warned about for years. Morale across policing is at an all-time low, recruitment is down and we are facing critical staffing issues that are dangerous for both the public and our troopers,” Cherven said.

Boston, too, has seen retirements on the rise with 130 leaving already this year — a 50% jump over the same period last year. Boston Police Patrolman’s Association President Larry Calderone attributes it to a “lack of respect out on the street for men and women wearing the uniform.”

Sophia Hall of Lawyers for Civil Rights — who helped shape a landmark police reform law amid mass protests over the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by Minneapolis police, that will later this year install the first-ever certification system for police officers in Massachusetts — said it’s “a little absurd” to think the yet-to-be-implemented law is fueling a significant rise in retirements.

A dip in recruitment numbers isn’t as drastic as some predicted. This year,10,345 took the biennial civil service exam — down from 13,866 in 2017, according to the state civil service commission.

In Worcester, where police Diversity Officer Sgt. Derrick Leto and his team have “actively recruited” for new officers, the number of new recruits is about the same as two years ago with a 4% boost in candidates of color.

“There’s a lot of people in the country and in Worcester that want be a part of the change and want to do this job,” Leto said. “The numbers reveal people still want to do this job.”

From www.bostonherald.com