How much does a law enforcement officer make?

If you’re considering a career as a law enforcement officer, you’re probably wondering how much money you can expect to pull down.  There’s a fairly wide range of pay for police careers, depending on what your position is and whether you work for a local, state or federal agency.  Because federal law enforcement careers generally pay better than local and state, the competition for these jobs is greater. 

The law enforcement officer salary figures below are taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2008, which is the most recent survey.

To begin at the top of the pay scale with the highest ranking law enforcement officer in a city police department other than the commissioner, the police chief is paid anywhere from $90,000 to $114,000 in base salary. Obviously, a police chief is at the top of the food chain when it comes to department rank, and thus they take home the biggest paycheck.  A deputy police chief’s salary is $75,000 to $96,000.  A police captain pulls down $73,000 to $91,000; a lieutenant, $66,000 to $79,000; sergeant $59,000 to $70,000; and corporal $49,000 to $61,000. This doesn’t take into account longevity pay, which allows for raises each year that the law enforcement officer stays in the job. 

Next in line in terms of law enforcement officer pay is the position of detective supervisor. Their salary range is $59,000 to $93,000, with the median pay being $75,000. As noted earlier, federal government positions pay the highest at a median salary of $89,930 for supervisor.  State government pays up to $75,370 and local $74,820.

Detectives and criminal investigators are next in line when it comes to law enforcement officer pay.  The range for these positions is $46,000 to $81,000, with the average pay coming in at $61,000. These positions pay highest at the federal level at an average salary of $73,000.  State pay averages $54,000 and local government pays an average of $56,000. 

Law enforcement officer pay for patrol police ranges from $30,000 to $80,000. The average salary for this position is $51,000. Federal government pay for this job is an average of $46,000; state government comes in at $57,000; and local governments pay an average of $51,000.  This is one of the few examples where the federal government is at the bottom of the pay scale.

One reason that federal pay for a law enforcement officer is generally higher than for state and local jobs is the amount of overtime that federal agents work.  They get law enforcement availability pay (LEAP), which is equal to 25% of their annual salary. Federal agents also get special benefit packages, which can add significantly to the net amount of compensation.

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