Public Safety Pay & Benefits

There has been a lot of news recently about the pay and benefits for public safety.  Cities in different parts of the country, that are facing budget deficits, are disbanding their police and fire departments.  These cities are replacing the services they had provided with contracted services from neighboring agencies in the hopes that they will save money.  In some cases, they probably can save a little money.  But the trade-off is likely a reduced level of service for the citizens in those jurisdictions.

The city of Half Moon Bay, California decided to disband their police department, including their 12 police officers, and they will be contracting with the local sheriff’s department to handle law enforcement.  Half Moon Bay citizens were not willing to enact a sales tax measure last November that would have provided funding for the police department.

The city of Costa Mesa, California decided to disband their fire department this coming September and they will be contracting with the local county fire department for fire protection.  County fire departments and county law enforcement agencies generally have better wages than these smaller cities.  It stands to reason that these jurisdictions will see a decline in the level of service to the citizens.  They are saving from the elimination of administration, but since the personnel likely cost more, they will not be getting as much in the way of personnel to respond to calls.  This could result in fewer officers continuously in a city or an increase in response time for fire calls.

I have seen a number of mindless comments on the Internet about the pay and benefits for public safety.  One recent comment on the Cal Coast News web site was from a reader who described pensions, retirement and benefits for public safety as “bloated” and that police and fire departments everywhere “should rethink their positions.”  Perhaps citizens, like this reader, are the ones who need to rethink their positions if they believe public safety is too well paid.

At 10:30 AM on Saturday morning (April 2) in Chattanooga, TN, police officers responded to a call of a robbery in progress at a business called U.S. Money Shops.  When officers arrived on scene, they were fired upon by the suspect.  A gun battle and foot pursuit ensued.  One police officer was shot and killed.  The suspect was wounded and was transported to the hospital for treatment.

My question to anyone, who believes that pay and benefits are too high for public safety members risking their lives in the performance of their duties, is this.  Would you be willing to risk your life, the same way the fallen officer did in Tennessee, for the same pay and benefits that you could get working in a job that was not dangerous?  You’re a fool if you would.  I wouldn’t.

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