Police Officer Salaries: Are Law Enforcement Officials Underpaid?

In some cities, police officer salaries may be less than what bums can rake in on a yearly basis. But are police officer salaries really that shabby? Last month, New York City police officer salaries received a big boost when the Public Employee Relations Board awarded them a 9.7 percent pay raise over two years. The NYC police officer starting salary is now $36,000, up from $25,000--though in exchange, new hires will see fewer vacation days.

Anemic police officer salaries have prompted some stark comparisons. After joining the New York City Police Department, Edward Conlon, a Harvard-educated writer, decided cops made less than homeless panhandlers. [Freakonomics.] Conlon says he made about $100 a day on the force, and, "I tried not to dwell on the fact that, economically, a New York City police officer was a notch down from a bum."

Why the sudden and dramatic increase in police officer salaries?

Low NYPD pay has caused some to jump ship [The New York Times], and head for the greener pastures of Nassau and Suffolk counties, on nearby Long Island. As of May 2007, the starting salary on the 2,692-member Suffolk force was $57,811 and increased after five years to $97,958. With overtime, many members of the Suffolk department pull in six figures. Crime rates in these areas also happen to be very low--certainly lower than in New York City.

Not surprisingly, it seems increasing police officer salaries leads to lower crime. It makes sense, especially when considering the dangers associated with being a cop. If you're making more to put your life in danger each day, well, it just sweetens an already-tough deal.

My question to you: Are police officers really underpaid, and if so, should an increase in police officer salaries be a priority for taxpayers?    


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