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by Peter Moskos

March 14, 2009

Pay (most) Cops More

Port Authority of New York and Jersey is not a bad place to work. They run all the airports and most of the bridges. I got to say, I'm a little jealous that if I were a Port Authority Police Officer, I would be making $86,467 in base pay. Still, I wouldn't switch back. Police officers do risk more than professors. Plus, they don't get summers off.

You can check out all the Port Authority salaries online (search under public safety). And overtime? How can you make over $120K in overtime!?

There are a lot of good police officers risking their lives and working hard for too little money in Baltimore and other poor cities around America. Baltimore City police start around $41,000. These officers need more money. Most police need to be paid more (sorry my Long Island brethren, I think you're paid just about right).

Police should be paid more than sanitation workers and firefighters. Unlike the latter two jobs, most big-city police departments are well below their budgeted staffing levels. That's why Baltimore had to go Puerto Rico looking for cops (they found some, too).

Suffolk County has a starting salary of about $60,000 and top salary after 5 years about $100,000. And that's not including overtime. Plus, compared to policing in a poor rough city, the job is safer (and let's be honest, easier--though there are some poor rough parts of Long Island).

The result? No shortage of qualified applicants. You have to pay something like $100 just to take the civil service exam. You and 29,000 others.

Is $100,000 too much for a police officer? I don't think so. And you might notice one thing about well-paying police departments like the Port Authority and Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. You rarely if ever hear about scandals coming of these police departments. If you pay men and women like professionals, they're more likely to act like professionals. That shouldn't be a surprise. At some level you get what you pay for.


Anonymous said...

"If you pay men and women like professionals, they're more likely to act like professionals."

Absolutely. Good post Peter. I have uttered that phrase many times myself. If agencies raise pay, I think they will also be able to justify higher standards. How about requiring at least an associate's degree (or 60 hrs. undergrad. credit)for recruits? You usually have to be 21 to be hired (even that's probably too young), and community college is generally affordable for most people, so I think this is feasible.

PCM said...

The college requirement works in New York City. I don't think you need college to be a good police officer. But I think college makes you a better person and than makes you a better police officer.

And I think a few years of more real-world experience would also make police better.

And yes, the more requirements you put on the job, the more you have to pay. Otherwise, why would people become police officers?

Anonymous said...

Agreed. The life experience is probably even more important. Police deal with very adult situations, so if you are primarily familiar w/ the problems of college students, you could be at a disadvantage.

Anonymous said...

I've been saying this for years. Law enforcement officers and public school teachers are grossly underpaid for the various disincentives there are to entering that line of work. If we want better teachers/cops, we need to pay them like the professionals they are.

Criminal Injustice System. said...

I could not have said it any better. Law enforcement is a profession and it should be paid like one.