You might think that one of the most dangerous professions a person can hold in the United States might also command one of the highest pay rates, but as it happens, this isn’t really the case. If you’ve been curious about how much a police officer makes per year, on average, we certainly have the answer for you. However, it’s a complicated answer that deserves a full context rather than an unassuming number. Therefore, let’s take a look at the factors that determine how much a cop is going to be paid per year. These public servants who, by their career choice, put their lives on the line do command a certain level of pay, but it’s not very widely known.
How many careers based in the United States regularly carry the possibility of being shot at, as a job risk? I’m guessing that the number isn’t particularly high, and that’s because we entrust the majority of our law enforcement and safety to our local police forces. These professionally trained individuals put their lives on the line to ensure that ours are protected, and though they’re human, just like the rest of us, success in the career field requires a rather specific kind of courage.
So, what kind of pay does it tend to demand? That’s a complicated answer, but we can kick if off by saying that police officers make slightly more than the average salaries present in most respective regions in the United States.
We cover salary questions fairly often, and one of the problems we run into most frequently is an inability to give an exact answer. The given region, specifically, tends to complicate this issue in ways that make average salaries slightly misleading, when viewed without a context. Therefore, we have to delve a little more deeply into the statistics and studies that are giving us the information, in order to provide a reliable answer.
That’s the interesting thing when we start talking about police officer salaries, however. While many careers might be region-specific, only existing in rural or urban areas, or certain cities, the police force has no such exclusivity. Where there are people, there are also people in law enforcement whose job is to protect those people. Until the question comes about concerning their salary, cops’ levels of pay are almost invisible.
Which then leads us to the more frequently asked question: “Do my taxes pay police salary?”
We’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of it in this article, but it will not be steering towards any of the various hot-button headlines featured in the recent news. There are a time and place for that sort of thing, and this guide is attempting to take an objective approach to the topic. If you’re interested in a career in law enforcement or know somebody who is, the following information will hopefully be quite informative!
How Much Do Police Officers Make?
First, let’s get some median statistics out of the way so that we can start to inspect how they might factor differently into respective regions. According to a study completed by CNN Money in 2012, the average police officer in the United States made $56,980, which was considerably higher than the national average yearly salary for all other careers ($34,750.) It’s important to remember just how much more dangerous law enforcement is as a profession, than most other careers that people opt into and train for.
Additionally, it’s very important to remember that region is going to be the single greatest controlling factor in regard to how much cops are paid. As with many other professions–regardless of whether they’re in the public or private sectors–the average cost of living in the area is going to dictate what constitutes an acceptable level of pay. If police officers weren’t paid enough to afford the basic necessities of living and potentially raising a family in an area that they’re serving, how would the community retain them?
Additionally, there are multiple roles within law enforcement agencies that affect pay. Officers are going to be assigned and tasked both where they’re needed and where they’re most useful. In the same study linked above, it’s revealed that the average pay of a detective is $74,300, while a patrol officer makes $55,270. Similarly, transit police make $55,210 while fish and game officers make $48,070. Just like the overall median quoted above, these specialized roles will all be affected by the region they’re located in.
Who Pays Police Officers?
One of the more frequently asked questions directed at police officers is also in reference to their yearly salaries. On a regular basis, people ask, “am I paying a cop’s salary with my taxes?” Just as above, the answer is fairly complicated, but we can suss out the reality of it in short order.
In truth, since law enforcement agencies are state-funded institutions, taxes do hugely contribute to the amount of money that we pay our police officers. Since their responsibility is to safeguard our cities, towns, counties, and communities, it’s understandable that their pay would come from funding generated by the areas that they’re serving in.
Fair game, since their profession inherently involves a high amount of risk.
However, the amount of money that each individual or family contributes to a police officer’s salary is almost negligible. A fantastic comparison that I found online posited that a cop who buys a gallon of milk every couple of weeks is similarly contributing to the earnings of a dairy farmer. Another common, smart-assed response is that everyone pays taxes; in this sense, police officers are paying their own salaries just as frequently as the citizens they’re employed to protect.
The distinction between the pay of a public-funded state institution and a private interest group is rather serious, and none of the United States law enforcement operations are privately funded. This ensures that laws, guidelines, and regulations that dictate the rights and practices in control of police and citizen interaction can be enforced across the country. No matter where you are in the United States, you can trust that the local police are following the exact same procedures as anywhere else.
One final note–while police officers are definitely on salary pay, the benefits available to them can differ from region to region. Unions, insurance, health benefits, and even tuition and academy cost reimbursement programs are frequently available to police officers. It can be prohibitively expensive for police to pay for their own academy training; when the option to have their costs reimbursed upon graduation is available, it’s a huge motivator for more people pursuing careers in law enforcement. Do Police Officers Get Raises?
Do Police Officers Get Raises?
Police officers most certainly are capable of receiving raises, and will typically see increased pay over the duration of their service. In the study from CNN Money, police salary went up every year or half-year. An officer that began their duty at $46,288 ended up with a $90,829 salary after five and a half years. This information was from the NYPD–which provides an important context–but it nevertheless is indicative of the amount that police officers can earn when they continue their service for several years.
Tangential to that trend is the fact that police officers frequently hit a “retirement age” faster than other career professionals. A combination of the intensity of their duties and the risk inherent with the job allow this to strike a fine balance with everything that they put on the line.
And what they put on the line–their own safety–isn’t something to be taken for granted. Anyone looking at a prospective career in law enforcement likely has a passion for justice, above other things. After all, there are plenty of careers that are rife with employment opportunity that also offer a higher salary than what you might make as a police officer.
For many, the unique skill sets provided by police training are an appeal all their own, alongside the desire to serve and improve the communities that they’re living in. Many of the same trends that you’d find in other career paths are also available to police officers–overtime pay, off-duty pay (while attending community events), side hustles, and more.
Hopefully, the above guide has given you an idea not only of how much police officers are paid, but why they’re paid the salaries that they are, and how those salaries are sourced. Our taxes most certainly pay for the well-being and livelihoods of law enforcement officers, but it’s not very often that we get to determine how much they’re paid. Regardless of that fact, police salaries are still certainly the “middle class” range of income, which is quite modest, considering that each officer is potentially risking their life while on-duty.
This brief guide is only the tip of the iceberg, however. If you have any further questions about how much cops make per year, let us know in the comments below! Alternatively, follow the links we’ve provided to several resources and statistical studies for more information!