Low Pay and the Recruitment Crisis

When it comes to the question of why people become law enforcement officers, there are basically two types of answers.

The first can be described as romantic or sentimental.

“People pursue careers in law enforcement because they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Cops become cops because they’re willing to make huge sacrifices to protect their communities,” some say.

Others say that’s all very nice, but the fact remains that people become cops because they need a job and want to get a decent paycheck—hell, maybe even some benefits and a pension.

For those worried about what many describe as a recruitment crisis, it’s probably a good idea to look at the situation in Flint, Michigan.

But we’re not talking about residents being charged for toxic and poisonous drinking water. We’re talking about starting salaries for local cops.

The figure is $11.25 an hour. Read it and weep.

In many forward-thinking states where lawmakers have passed legislation requiring a minimum wage that a single person can live on, this would actually be illegal.

Why on earth would an intelligent young person worried, first and foremost, about their economic security risk their life on the job when they could do much better becoming a trucker, beautician, or even a janitor?

Paying someone $11.25 an hour puts that individual’s annual income at $23,400.

If someone tells you that’s enough to raise a small family, they’re lying.

Here’s a short list of places and jobs in the area where the folks that might have had an interest in policing will more likely be applying:

  • Substitute teachers: $12.46
  • Security guards: $13.05
  • Restaurant cooks: $11.45
  • Janitors: $12.56
  • Blackjack and other table game dealers: $11.44
  • Taxi drivers: $11.40

Basically, new police hires in a high-crime city (Flint has the 11th highest violent crime rate for cities with at least 50,000 people, according to FBI data) will be making about the same amount as maids and house cleaners.


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