Why the Average Salary for Police Officers in Los Angeles County Is $40,000 a Year

Why the Average Salary for Police Officers in Los Angeles County Is $40,000 a Year

Editorial: You owe another $5 for excessive force by L.A. County sheriff’s deputies. Pay up.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “Never work with employees whose salaries are too low.” It’s true in every corner of the country and in every industry, but it’s particularly relevant in local law enforcement where salary levels are at or near the bottom, and the average pay for rank-and-file cops in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is a jaw-dropping $40,000 a year.

But not all pay is bad.

In Los Angeles County, which has the most expensive housing market in the nation, an average salary of $40,000 is high compared to the rest of the nation — but, in particular, compared with the average salary for police forces in big, established, mostly white cities like Chicago, New York and San Diego. There’s a reason for that.

What these cities are like, where there’s no crime, no need for police and where there’s little to no chance of a mass shooting, there’s a major advantage. There’s a reason their police forces are some of the most-lucrative in the nation.

“When you have a large number of police officers,” a reporter from the New York Times reported after he spent a week covering his own department. “You can do all sorts of things with that. You can run for office. You can have all sorts of political ambitions…. You can form your own police union. You can create a private detective agency. And there are all kinds of things that you can do if you have that much power.”

To be fair, the New York Times reporter wasn’t just talking about police officers. There are city, county and state employees whose salaries are among the lowest in the nation — a fact of which the Times reporter wasn’t unaware. The chief executive officer of the New York Police Department, who runs a $6 billion agency with over 3,000 officers, is paid $174,000 a year more than the lowest-paid city manager in the country. And according to the Department of Labor, the five police chiefs in the country who make more than $200,000 a year are all white men.

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