Data: See what your city pays its police officers and firefighters

March 8, 2011 

During 2009, California police officers earned, on average, $92,817, including overtime, incentive pay and payouts upon retirement, according to a Sacramento Bee analysis of data from the state controller's office. Firefighters and engineers earned, on average, $114,565. Average pay for police captains across the state was $161,606; for fire captains, it was $143,558.

This database shows the average pay for firefighters, police officers and their supervisors in nearly every California city and county. After getting your results, click "details" to see average city and county contributions to employee retirement and health plans. See notes below for methodology and caveats.


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Notes: Average pay is calculated using total wages during 2009 subject to Medicare taxes as reported in Box 5 of each employee’s W-2. The amounts listed may include, but are not limited to, wages, overtime, cash payments for vacation and sick leave, and bonus payments.

The controller's office data shows actual pay for all employees, including those who only worked part-time or for part of the year. To avoid part-timers skewing the numbers, The Bee removed from its calculation any employee who earned less than $25,000 during 2009 or who earned at least $2,000 less than the minimum posted salary for their position.

The state's police and fire departments don't classify employees in a uniform manner. To find the average salary for police officers, the Sacramento Bee looked at any police or sheriff's department employee with the word "officer" in their job title, excluding code enforcement officers, animal control officers and supervisory officers. (For sheriff's department's, The Sacramento Bee used looked for deputies, instead of officers.) Average salary for rank-and-file firefighters includes any employee with "firefighter" or "engineer" in their job title.

For fire and police chiefs, some departments employed two chiefs during the year -- one chief left and another took her place. In those cases, The Sacramento Bee used the salary of the chief with the highest reported earnings for the year. If you see a chief's salary that looks particularly low, it's possible that chief only worked part of the year.

Since cashouts for unused sick leave and vacation upon retirement are often large, a department with a high number of retirements during 2009 will likely show higher average pay. Several Sacramento County Sheriff's Department captains, for instance, retired during 2009. Vacation and sick leave payouts do not count toward pension calculations.


Source: State Controller's Office, local government compensation reports

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