The Road to Competitive Salaries: 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back

The results of the Third Annual Campus Safety Salary Survey are in, and the news is good for some, but not for others. This first half of our two-part series discusses how sworn officer pay appears to be on the rise, making it easier for the campus law enforcement community to attract quality sworn personnel. Starting pay for nonsworn officers, however, has decreased, and women and some minorities remain underrepresented.

Although officer recruitment and retention challenges continue to plague campus police and security departments, according to the Third Annual Campus Safety Salary Survey, many are now better able to compete with traditional law enforcement agencies for qualified officers.

When it comes to sworn officer pay, police departments at our nation’s hospitals, schools and universities have taken some steps forward since last year. The starting median salary for sworn officers increased from $27,500 in 2006 to $32,500 — a $5,000 jump. Still, if a campus agency is located in an area like Los Angeles, where the city’s police department pays its rookie officers $54,475, or in Las Vegas where officers make a starting salary of more than $46,000, the competition is tough.

And the progress seen in sworn officer starting salaries has not crossed over to the nonsworn ranks. In fact, the average starting pay rate for nonsworn officers decreased from $23,116 in 2006 to $21,546. The salaries of chiefs and directors ($75,000) showed no change.

Education benefits for officers seem to be the incentive of choice for many campuses. Nearly one in four respondents list this perk as their primary way to attract both sworn and nonsworn recruits. For officers wanting to continue their education or for those who have children who want to attend college, this benefit is indeed attractive.

Still, when compared to traditional law enforcement agencies that are offering perks like signing bonuses, down payments on houses, and extra vacation time to new officers, attracting recruits and keeping them remains difficult for campuses.

This year’s survey in which part I of the results follow, has been expanded to include demographic data relating to gender, race, ethnicity, private vs. public salary comparisons, how tuition affects pay, and more. Thirteen charts, along with additional comments, show the state of the campus law enforcement industry and its efforts to recruit and retain good employees.

Male, Female Respondent Salaries Practically the Same
Considering that law enforcement has traditionally been dominated by males, it is not surprising that only 12 percent of this year’s survey respondents were female. Despite the gap, male and female survey participants indicate that on the chief/director or upper management level, their pay is remarkably similar.

The average pay rate for women ($66,969) is slightly less than men ($67,275), but the median pay rate is the same for both sexes ($65,000). A slightly greater percentage of women respondents (7 percent) than male respondents (5 percent) make less than $30,000.

On the other end of the pay scale, a slightly greater percentage of women (9 percent) than men (7 percent) make more than $110,000.

Female representation in the rank and file is also less than in the general population. Only 3 percent of responding agencies report that at least 51 percent of their department’s employees are female. Eighty percent of respondents say that women make up 30 percent or less of their agency’s employee population — a figure more than 20 percentage points below the 51 percent of females in the general population.

With Race and Ethnicity, Mixed Results
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, blacks make up 12.3 percent of the American population. With this in mind, the fact that 11 percent of this year’s salary survey respondents indicated they were African-American is quite promising. Still, that equality did not translate into parity in pay — black chiefs/directors indicate they generally make less than white and Hispanic respondents.

The average salary for black respondents is $56,923 and the median pay rate is $55,000, while the average for white upper level security and law enforcement management is $68,528 and the median is $65,000. Hispanic respondents indicate their average pay rate is $73,750 and median pay rate is $75,000, higher than both their black and white counterparts.

Seventy-nine percent of black respondents make $70,000 or less per year, while 56 percent of white respondents and 43 percent of Hispanic respondents make that amount. Nearly 8 percent of white respondents make more than $110,000 per year, while only 2 percent of black respondents are paid that salary.

It should be noted that Hispanics represent only 6 percent of survey respondents (they make up 13 percent of the overall U.S. population). Additionally, 50 percent of survey respondents say that 20 percent or less of their department employees are minorities.

More Time on the Job Doesn’t Always Lead to More Pay
Longevity in a particular position doesn’t necessarily mean a chief/director will be paid more. Chiefs/directors in their current positions 6.1–8 years have a median salary of $55,000, while those with 2 years or less experience have a median pay rate of $65,000. Chief/director respondents with 2.1-4 years, 4.1-6 years, 8.1-10 years and more than 10 years are all paid a median of $75,000.

Chiefs/directors and upper management who have been in campus police/security overall for more than 20 years, however, are generally paid more, with a median salary of $85,000. Those with 16-20 years are paid $75,000 (median); those with 11-15 years are paid $65,000; those with 6-10 years are paid $70,000; and those with 1-5 years are paid $65,000.

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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