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Earnings and Benefits for Police Officers (page 3)

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Updated on Dec 2, 2010

Just the Facts

Batter up! Baseball is a sport in which moonlighting policemen are on the payrolls. These officers are paid as part-time employees of Major League Baseball to help with security.

Many other benefits are provided by most police departments that do not call for you to do extra work at all. Most police departments, whether local, state, or federal, and most sheriffs' offices, provide health insurance to the officer and dependent family members, including dental and eyeglass coverage. In most agencies, this coverage extends even after you have retired, so it is in reality a lifetime benefit for you and your spouse, although children who reach a certain age will no longer be covered under your policies.

Virtually all departments provide paid vacation time; in some you are able to accrue as many as 30 days within your first or second year of employment. In many agencies you are permitted to carry over these days for years; some officers retire with so many days accrued that they remain on the payroll for six months or more after they have stopped working. Although many officers save their vacation time by choice, one of the few negative aspects of this benefit is that vacation time is usually approved in seniority order, which means that if you are a new officer, or if you have recently been transferred to a new assignment, you are unlikely to get your first choice of vacation dates. You can turn this into a benefit by travelling at off-peak periods, when prices are lower and crowds thinner.

In addition to vacation time, departments also provide sick and personal leave and generally 12 paid holidays. Once again, though, the needs of the department may prevent you from being off on holidays, although you will generally be paid at a rate of or twice your normal hourly rate if you work on a holiday. Despite these generous amounts of time off, some families have trouble getting used to their officer being away from home on many holidays or having to work on many family occasions. To prevent family discord, some departments have added policies that allow officers to swap work days. This means that you can take off for any reason as long as another officer agrees to work your assignment so that the department is not short-staffed and is not faced with paying someone overtime to fill your vacant spot. It will be up to you to work a shift for your colleague to complete the swap.

Other benefits are less universal. A common one is a uniform allowance provided annually or an arrangement by which your agency provides you with virtually your entire uniform except for socks, shoes, and undergarments. Some agencies issue replacements for worn uniform parts; in other agencies you must purchase them yourself, but tax laws permit you to deduct from your income many items that you must purchase or maintain for work. Generally, most equipment is also provided, although some agencies expect you to purchase from an authorized vendor your firearm, handcuffs, and other police-specific equipment from your annual allowance.

Some departments offer tuition reimbursement for any college course in which you earn a grade of B or better; depending on the part of the country in which you work, some departments offer incentive pay for foreign language skills. Incentive pay may also be offered for education in excess of the minimum entry requirements, for being an emergency medical technician (EMT) or a paramedic, or for having skills that a particular agency has decided it needs.

Appendix B provides samples of job announcements from a variety of police agencies. Although each agency will have its own set of requirements, these are typical of the type of benefits you will be offered and the type of requirements you will be expected to meet to become employed.

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