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Think New Jersey Police Are Overpaid? Try Doing the Job

Think New Jersey Police Are Overpaid? Try Doing the Job

Andover P.O. Joseph Indano

February 02, 2011

In light of a recent newspaper article about police salaries in New Jersey being among the highest in the nation: First off, let’s remind ourselves that New Jersey’s cost of living is one of, if not the highest, in the country, and that most jobs in New Jersey, including private sector jobs, pay more than other states.

The article in question is outright offensive to police officers for many reasons — Number One being that it implies that police work is “less dangerous” in suburban or rural areas compared to urban areas.

In some respects, that is true. However, in many suburban/rural departments, only one police officer provides coverage for the entire municipality, regardless of population or physical size. [In] a densely populated area, you are more likely to have more police officers, which equals more backup. The risk of assault or being killed increases when you work alone.

Crime happens everywhere, obviously at a higher rate in a more densely populated area. Nationwide, however, more police officers are killed in rural settings than in urban areas. From 2005-2009, the average number of police officers killed in the line of duty per year was 159, with an average age of 40.

The newspaper article fails to report the fact that the average life expectancy of a police officer is 53-57 years, according to a study done by the Police Policies Council. The average life expectancy of a non-police male is 73 years. That is an astonishing difference.

Post-retirement life expectancy for a police officer, no matter the age, is just three years.

Take into account the shift rotations, job-related stress, PTSD, etc. — not to mention the health risks of working a shift alone, such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, sleep deprivation, diabetes, stroke, depression and mood swings, to name a few.

Depression and mood swings are the likely cause of a high suicide rate among police officers: 18.1 suicides per 100,000. That figure is 52% higher than that of non-police officers, according to an insurance claims study conducted by the FOP in 1995.

I’m not saying that we’re the only professionals susceptible to these health risks — just that it is another required part of this job that affects our quality of life.

Another involves assaults on officers. According to New Jersey Uniform Crime Reports, there were 2,588 reported assaults on police officers in New Jersey in 2009: 86 percent of those were physical assaults, 14 percent occurred with a weapon. What‘s more, 29 percent of assaults occurred during handling of “disturbance calls,” and 19 percent of assaults occurred affecting an arrest.

I challenge anyone to find a job in the private sector that reflects comparable numbers to all of those statistics listed above. The fact is that it is impossible to find a private sector job to compare with that of a police officer.

There is a reason we wear body armor, guns, pepper spray and batons when we work: There are people in this world who want to hurt us or kill us, simply because of who we are and what we represent. It is apples to oranges when any comparison is made between police work and private sector jobs, including salaries and benefits.

Another figure the newspaper failed to report is the comparison of municipal tax rates of towns with police departments to those without.

For example: The average property tax in Andover Township in 2009 was $5,651. The neighboring towns of Lafayette and Green Township are similar to Andover, both demographically and geographically. Neither of those townships funds a municipal police department, yet the average property taxes in those municipalities are $6,374 and $6,337 respectively — nearly $1,000 more than Andover. [NOTE: All of these figures are available on]

But let’s look closer:

A breakdown of taxes in Andover Township shows that the cost of the board of education to each household exceeds the amount of municipal tax by nearly $3,000.

Of course, property taxes are higher in some towns and lower in others. But the ratio of tax dollars to police services remains roughly the same. Essentially, every homeowner, on average, pays roughly $500 a year for a full-time police department that is available to every person who lives or travels through the municipality 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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