If one is considering becoming a police officer, he/she might want to examine and evaluate all his/her options before settling on a career in law enforcement. It’s not that law enforcement is not a noble profession. It’s not that protecting and serving one’s community is not the pinnacle of civic virtue and civic responsibility. It’s not that becoming a police officer is not a highly rewarding career that can lead to personal growth and personal success. It’s simply that in some struggling communities and towns across America, police officers earn wages that one may consider to be financially deficient, not economically viable or, more simply put, paltry.
Take for instance, part-time police officers working in Mon Valley, PA. One officer, C.L. Gunter, earns less than $10 per hour. When asked about his income, he said, “Nine, $10 an hour, putting my life on the line every day – ridiculous.”
Putting one’s life on the line is certainly a part of being a police officer. And no one knows this more than Clairton, PA, patrolman James Kuzak, who, on April 4, 2011, arrived at the scene of a home invasion and was shot four times by the two suspects. He was critically wounded as a result. Kuzak was making $11 on hour.
Following the shooting, Kuzak banded together with local authorities and other police agencies in an effort to raise the hourly wages for Pennsylvania police officers. Regarding this effort, “It’s a fight we’ve been doing for a long time and it’s the only goal that we have,” Kuzak said in an interview with a local news station. The cause has found traction with State Sen. James Brewster who has introduced a bill that will set a minimum wage of $15 per hour for all Pennsylvania police officers.
In comparison to average hourly pay rates, the $9-$11 pay range is above the federal minimum wage, which is currently at $7.25 per hour, but is less than the national average for other careers and professions, including Nursing, Property management services, Domestic servants (see chart for more details).