Nationally, the average salary for police officers and detectives serving in local or municipal organizations was $55,010 in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries for police officers are contingent upon many factors, including the size, budget and location of the jurisdiction, as well as the officer’s seniority and level of education.
Police officer salaries are complemented by a very generous benefits package that usually includes pensions, health insurance, overtime and hazard pay, as well as accrued personal days. In addition to competitive salaries and benefits, police officers also report one of the highest levels of job satisfaction, given the excitement and personal rewards that come with fighting crime and keeping society safe.
Compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the data contained in this table represents statewide salary averages for police officers serving at the municipal level:
Local police organizations value the skills and expertise that experienced officers possess, so they often reward veterans with considerable salaries. The ability to progress to a six-figure salary within the span of a 20 or 30-year career helps make police work attractive. The majority of police organizations provide regular increases in salary on a yearly basis.
Factors that May Influence the Salary of a Police Officer or Detective
Level of Education – The knowledge and skills acquired through a college education are beneficial throughout a police officer’s career. While most local police forces do not require candidates to have a post-secondary degree, an associate’s, bachelor’s, or postgraduate degree can elevate a candidate’s chances for employment as well as raise the likelihood for promotion.
In most police organizations, officers with college degrees receive substantial increases to their salaries, which may be several thousand dollars a year. Many departments also stipulate that a college degree in criminal justice or a related area is required for promotions to leadership roles. Many jurisdictions provide opportunities and tuition reimbursement for their police officers to return to school on a part time basis and obtain degrees.
Jurisdiction – In some areas of the country, senior police in leadership roles within metropolitan forces can receive salaries exceeding $250,000 annually. These salaries are far outside the norm, but they reflect the value that most communities place upon these critical public servants.
Higher salaries also are usually found in areas where economic activity is robust and crime may be prevalent. Areas like Boston, New York and Los Angeles are able and willing to pay their police significantly higher salaries to attract and retain the most qualified law enforcement professionals. A higher cost of living is often a contributing factor for a higher salary.
Prior Experience – Officers who have served in the military or in critical professions like finance or information technology often receive higher salaries. Veterans who have served in combat perform well in many of the high-risk situations that police encounter. They are also more comfortable with the hierarchical and team oriented nature of police organizations.
Advanced study or experience in fields where complex criminal activity occurs is often rewarded by police agencies. Second languages like Spanish are often very helpful in some communities, and may garner a higher salary.
Veterans of law enforcement often receive preference during the hiring process and may even obtain senior positions and commensurate salary. Prior military police, private security contractors and government employees with security clearance often possess the experience and competencies that local police are willing to pay a premium for.
Salary Bonuses – In addition to the base salaries, police officers enjoy many opportunities to augment their salaries. While a 40-hour workweek is standard, police officers of all ranks often serve many more hours. This overtime is compensated by the standard hourly wage plus a bonus established by the department. Many police officers bolster their standard salaries with overtime, which can be a substantial portion of their income.
Another factor to consider is the early eligibility for retirement and the lucrative pension plans that come with a career as a police officer or detective. Some police departments permit their officers to retire after only 20 years of service and receive pensions that are 50 to 80 percent of their ending salary. Police officers who complete their time still have decades in which to pursue other career options while receiving robust pension payments. Many of the skills acquired in law enforcement translate into lucrative careers in private security or commerce.