Police salaries handcuff taxpayers

19 Apr

If you think public school teachers are overpaid, The Record (Hackensack, NJ) reports that the award should go to New Jersey police officers, whose average annual salary in 2008 was nearly $80,000, 25% more than school employees and nearly double the average public employee, who made $41,267 that year.

In Englewood, for example, the average income for police officers in 2009 was a whopping $143,268.  With a base salary of $113,684, overtime of $20,593 and nearly $9,000 in off duty income guarding utility sites paid for by the utility company, police officers’ compensation puts them well above the income of the taxpayers who pay their salaries.

The one square mile borough of Rochelle Park (Bergen County), for example, paid police officers an average salary of $126,828 last year–the highest in the state—and double the average household income of the community’s taxpayers.  In Bergen County, the average police officer salary for 2009 was $103,649.

One police union official said housing is expensive in Bergen County and therefore his members need high salaries to live in the community.  Why isn’t renting an option?  Where is it written that taxpayers have to underwrite police officers’ housing wants?  Living in a comfortable apartment is good enough for many taxpayers.  It should be good enough for most young and middle-aged police officers.

Police officers are not to blame for these outrageous salaries.  Local officials and arbitrators are responsible for base salaries increasing 10% per year for the first five years of service and then reaching six figures for officers who reach 10 years of service in Bergen County and 16 years in Passaic County.

In other words, local officials have been poor stewards of the public’s money. They have failed miserably in providing quality services and keeping taxes at reasonable levels over the years

Property taxes reflect the cost of local government and public schools.   In other words, we know what police departments and schools cost taxpayers but what are they are worth to taxpayers?  The answer is as long as government provides these services the salaries and wages of police officers and teachers will reflect the “political muscle’ of their unions, not their “market value.”

Privatizing education is possible.  See my last post.  The more challenging privatizing effort would be to make policing a community a nongovernmental activity.  It can be done.  (More about privatizing community protection in an upcoming post.)

Let’s face it.  Police officers in the suburbs do three things: write up accident reports, investigate a crime scene and give out speeding and other tickets.  In the suburbs most police officers spend a whole career without firing their firearm let alone drawing it out for their holsters.

That’s why Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak’s statement that police are in a “special category’ because of “the hazards of their work” is disingenuous.  Even if Drewniak’s statement is true, which it isn’t, Governor Christie has asked teachers and other school personnel to accept a wage freeze next year, but he has not asked police personnel for any “shared sacrifice.”  Shared sacrifice means that all government employees should forgo some income to help out the beleaguered taxpayers in this fiscal crisis.

Given the salaries of police officers around the state and especially in northern New Jersey, a three to five year salary freeze is called for.  New Jersey taxpayers need a break from the sky high costs of government.

  1. cschrieks

    April 26, 2010 at 10:15 am

    All too often the police become the scapegoat for higher taxes and increased burden on the taxpayer. We consistently are put into a category of a group of people who just drive around harassing the general public, write un-necessary traffic summonses and are paid exorbitant amounts of money to do so.
    As a police officer with over 20 years of service this is the farthest thing from the truth. I can go into the clichés about “we get paid for what we might have to do,” or who does the public call when they return home at night and their back door is kicked in and they think the actor is still in the house. They do not call a professor of economics an “expert” at policing a community they call those overpaid harassing police officers.
    As far as privatizing the police field, that is a big mistake. This may work in other aspects of government but as far as policing is concerned it will never be an option. Paying the lowest bidding private security company to exercise this kind of responsibility would be criminal.
    The answer is regionalization. By combining police agencies and working toward an organization that will effectively police the towns in the county savings can be made.
    As far as using whether or not an officer draws or fires his weapon as a bench mark for the work they do that is naive at best. No one goes to work wanting this however anyone who has ever been in uniform has to be mentally prepared. The most docile call can turn into a violent one in seconds and will be scrutinized by “experts” for months if not years.
    Everyone needs to stop the finger pointing at groups of government entities. We, the ones working today, did not create this. We need to look forward and see how we can more efficiently police our communities by merging departments and sharing services. This is the way to savings.
    Tightening the belts and having officers freeze salaries maybe someone’s opinion. I believe if we are singled out I could also point my finger at the high learning institutions as well. Let’s freeze the salaries of tenured college professors also. Then the burden of sending three kids to college will be less also.