– State troopers suing North Carolina for millions of dollars in back pay say the state’s broken promises have forced them into tough spots: working second jobs, moving in with parents, even going on food stamps.

About 800 troopers — equivalent to half the force — have joined a class-action lawsuit arguing that the state promised a schedule of regular pay increases when they were hired, but reneged because of budget problems. Many took pay cuts when they were recruited from other agencies, expecting to catch up quickly because of raises traditionally given about once a year.

“I don’t think people understand the hard times we’re going through,” said Master Trooper Rick Quinones, who lives with his wife and two young daughters in a spare bedroom at his parents’ house. His wife and children are covered by Medicaid, he said, and they use WIC government food assistance. “That’s a hit on your pride, especially when you’re supposed to be the best that the state has to offer,” he said.

The group, which includes some former troopers, is appealing after a trial court judge ruled against them in the nearly 2-year-old case.

“We took an oath to protect the public, and that’s what we do. We are in harm’s way every day,” said Robbie Terry, 47, master trooper.“It’s all about what’s right and wrong, and we have been wronged.”

Associated Press