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Climbing The Ranks of the Police Department

23 February 2010 One Comment


As in any profession, there is a chain of authority within a police department.  For the person considering entering the police force or the rookie officer it may seem like quite a climb, but a little education and goal setting can help you decide what level you want to obtain and secure you on the right path to obtaining your goals.   With each level of rank comes added responsibility to the community you are sworn to protect, but also to the other officers on your team.  With that responsibility naturally comes a higher salary and better benefits, but it is important to weigh those two ideas against each other to find what is a reasonable goal for your personal situation.

The salaries below are listed according to t he 2009 International City-County Management Associations survey of officer salaries.  Actual salaries in your area can vary depending upon size of the community and responsibilities.  More tasks may be delegated to officers in small communities, allowing for some ranks to be removed from the chain of command.  Likewise, in major metropolitan areas you will likely find more specialized positions amongst the ranks that are not listed below. Entry-level police officers are generally new recruits and those in their first couple years in law enforcement.  They are responsible for patrolling a designated area of the city to ensure traffic laws are being upheld as well as responding to complaints and emergency situations in their area.  The average range of pay for an entry-level police officer in the United States is between $49,421 and $61,173 although some small communities may pay significantly less.

Police sergeants have a variety of duties that often overlap with the work of the entry-level police officers.  Aside from general police duties, these officers also handle management duties including disciplinary actions, implementation of new policies and procedures and overseeing more complex criminal cases.  Most police sergeants have tenure of at least five years in law enforcement.  The average salary range for a police sergeant is between $58,729 and $70,349. The next step in the chain of command is a police captain.  This is considered a senior level position and generally requires eight to twelve years of law enforcement experience as well as an advanced college degree in criminal justice.  A police captain is responsible for overseeing training of new recruits, acting as a liaison with other governmental agencies, supporting the police chief, and supervising the detective division.  Salary range will vary significantly based on responsibilities and size of the city, but the average range is between $72,761 and $91,178. The deputy chief is an operations manager of sorts for the entire police department.

Most deputy chiefs have a high level degree and several years experience in either a lieutenant or captain, or a solid military background.  This officer responds to the scenes of major incidents and assists the chief of police in goal setting for the department.  The responsibility requirements pay off however, as these officers generally make between $74,834 and $96,209 in annual salaries. Depending on where you reside, a police chief may be an appointed position or an elected position.  The chief is responsible for designing and managing all police activities in the department.  They generally report directly to the mayor of the city or town, and is the face most often seen dealing with the media.  The average salary range is between $90,570 and $113,930.

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