Commentary: Can We Afford to Pay Police?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, May 27, 2005

Under the new contract, regular patrol officers will get a 25% pay raise over five years. Police sergeants will get a 38% boost. So how much money are we talking about? 

A top step police officer with a bachelors degree brings homes $64,130 a year now. At the end of the new contract he will earn $81,900 a year. Sergeant will go from a base pay of about $77,000 to $107,000.  When pay goes up, so do pensions. Police officers in Sacramento can retire in their early fifties with 90 percent of their salaries. 

To be fair, the pay and pensions in Sacramento are not out of line with what Folsom and Roseville pay their cops, and police work in those cities is considered less dangerous.  But can Sacramento and those other cities afford it? Hefty pay raises and lavish pensions are all balanced on an inflated housing market and a stock market subject to huge gyrations. What happens when the housing bubble bursts and the stock market drops? Nearly bankrupt cities and their taxpayers will be left to pay the tab.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.