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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.

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.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

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

Matt Schneider
Read more from Matt

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