Police Officer Gross Pay Statistics

A recent FOIA request by a local attorney has resulted in the release of 2011’s gross pay information for all sworn Sterling Heights Police Officers and Fire Fighters.  I have received a copy of the data to do with it what I will, and naturally I feel that it is of interest to readers of this blog.  In this post I am concentrating on the information regarding the Police Department; Fire Department information will come in another post.

Confidentiality: I am treating the information regarding individuals as confidential.  I have no interest in revealing who makes what, as I think it is divisive and contrary to the goal of having a smooth running police department.  As residents, however, it is important to understand what drives the costs of policing our community.  Having a first rate police department requires having well paid individuals working there, which is something most people probably realize.   However, a look at some of the statistics may reveal the reasons why the city is now headed toward a vote on a public safety millage sometime in 2013.

About the numbers: these are gross pay statistics.  The numbers from the FOIA document show what each officer earned before taxes, and not what their take-home pay was.  The gross wage figures also include overtime and any longevity pay, shift premiums, etc.  Although the numbers may seem high depending on your own salary, remember that in the big picture these men and women are not becoming wealthy, as I can attest with my own personal salary being somewhere in the middle of these numbers.  I think it’s also important to remember that everyone on the force operates with a higher risk of losing their life on the job than most people, something that weighs on their minds each and every day.

Gross Pay Overall

Overall, police officers in Sterling Heights earn a solid income.  No sworn police officer grossed less than $60,000 last year.  The top paid officers earned slightly in excess of $140,000.

I’ve broken down the gross pay numbers into what I’ll call “$10K segments”.  2 Officers earned over $140,000.  7 earned between $130,000 and $140,000.  10 earned between $120K and $130K.  22 earned between $110K and $120K, and another 22 earned between $100,000 and $110,000.  46 (the largest segment) earned between $90,000 and $100,000.  30 earned between $80,000 and $90,000, 12 earned between $70,000 and $80,000, and 3 earned between $60,000 and $70,000.  Nobody earned less than $60,000, or in excess of $150,000.

In summary, the average gross pay for 2011 was $99,396.68.  The median pay was $96,333.26.  Officers with female first names averaged $92,769.29, while male officers averaged $100,165.07 (two officer first names are gender-ambiguous).  The average Command (supervisory) Officer grossed approximately $120,100.58, while the average Police (regular cop) Officer gross pay was around $93,307.30.

Pay vs. Rank

There are several different ranks within the department.  In addition, there are “rank modifiers” which impact officer pay according to how much post-secondary education he or she has.  An officer who has a Masters degree from an accredited university theoretically can earn more than one with an Associate degree.  However, the actual gross numbers don’t always reflect the idea of higher educational achievement equaling higher pay, probably due to overtime, longevity pay, and shift premiums.  Here is the breakdown for 2011 of average gross pay numbers:

I’m terming the bottom three categories as ‘undefined’ with respect to averages.  With just one officer in each category, posting an ‘average pay’ is the equivalent of posting the pay of three individuals, contrary to my goal of not revealing any individual salaries.  If you must know, file a FOIA of your own.

A graphical look at this data shows there are a couple of “sweet spots” where the pay is higher than intuition might suggest.  Being a Sergeant with an Associate’s degree seems to work out a little better than being a Sergeant with a Bachelor’s degree.    Similarly, Lieutenants seemingly out-earn Lieutenants with Bachelor degrees.  Strangely, Patrol Officers with Associate degrees do better than those either with a Bachelor degree or with no degree at all.

Labor Cost By Division

It was possible to deduce which department division each employee worked for in the FOIA data.  Here is a look at the labor cost of each division:

The lion’s share of the work effort and pay goes to the Operations Division, which is the one that puts cars on the road in response to 911 calls, performs regular patrols, and performs traffic enforcement.  Note that these numbers do not include dispatch (except for the command officer), as they are not sworn Police Officers.

A graphical look at the data above reveals the difference in scale between the divisions.  By far, the largest amount of money goes to pay the officers who are out in public.

Male Officers vs. Female Officers

In general, the female officers are better educated than the males, but there are far fewer of them, and none have risen above the rank of Sergeant.  The most senior officers are all male, and the highest educational achievements go to males with two holding Masters degrees.

Reflecting the same trends found in virtually every industry, on average the males out-earn the females by a significant amount.  Remember this is skewed heavily by the much smaller number of females, and the lower rank achievements of females overall.


The numbers speak for themselves, and everyone will have a slightly different subjective interpretation of how well police officers are paid in Sterling Heights compared to their own salary.  I don’t have accurate comparative data to other cities, nor do I have strong opinions on what a police officer’s salary should be.  After quite a bit of reflection, I personally wouldn’t do the job for what the best paid officer makes given the risks, and I probably am poorly suited for the job anyway.

Male vs. female pay and rank data is interesting but not conclusive.  There are a myriad of factors which impact individual achievements, and the fact that very few female police officers are on the job skews the numbers heavily.

There is a substantial amount of money expended in Sterling Heights on these men and women’s paychecks, and that amount of money is becoming a problem for the city’s budget.  The contracts for both the command officers as well as the regular patrol officers are currently up in the air, and it looks like both will be decided by an arbitrator under Public Act 312.  These numbers could look vastly different for the 2012 calendar year, or they could remain roughly the same.  If they do remain roughly the same, you can count on a new tax measure being placed on the 2013 ballot.

In my meetings with Sterling Heights Police, I have never failed to be impressed by the professionalism and kindness they have shown me.  I’m sure there are good and bad, and I’m sure that my opinion would be different if I wasn’t law abiding!  That said, whether market economics dictates their salaries are too high or too low, or just about right, I wouldn’t begrudge any of them their paycheck.  Whether the city can afford those paychecks, however, remains to be seen.


Posted on April 26, 2012, in Labor Contracts, Public Safety. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Police Officer Gross Pay Statistics.

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