Average pay for California's rank-and-file police officers and firefighters eclipsed $100,000 in 2014, as many cities across the state granted raises following years of tight budgets.
California police officers made, on average, $102,600 during 2014. That figure reflects base pay, as well as overtime, incentive pay and payouts upon retirement, according to a Sacramento Bee analysis of new data from the State Controller's Office. Firefighters and engineers earned, on average, $127,100. Average pay for police captains across the state was $167,700; for fire captains, it was $157,220.
Average pay for rank-and-file police officers increased by about 3 percent from 2013 to 2014, while average pay for firefighters rose 2 percent.
Excluding overtime, vacation payouts and bonuses, average pay for police officers in 2014 was $80,800 and for firefighters was $82,500.
Use this database to see the average pay for firefighters, police officers and their supervisors in nearly every California city and county. Updated February 2016 with 2014 data.
Police and fire departments typically have a range of salaries for each position. Thanks to overtime, bonuses, allowances and retirement payouts, about 94 percent of the state's full-time local firefighters earned more than the maximum posted salary for their positions. The average maximum posted salary for firefighters and engineers in California is $87,000. Below you can see where all firefighter salaries in California fall across a grid.
California firefighter pay distribution
Police officers tended to earn closer to their average maximum posted salary of roughly $85,000.
California police officer pay distribution
Notes: Average pay is calculated using total wages during 2014 subject to Medicare taxes as reported in Box 5 of each employee’s W-2. The amounts listed may include, but are not limited to, wages, overtime, cash payments for vacation and sick leave, and bonus payments.
The Controller's Office data show actual pay for all employees, including those who only worked part-time or for part of the year. To avoid part-timers skewing the numbers, The Bee removed from its calculation any employee who earned less than $25,000 during 2014 or who earned at least $2,000 less than the minimum posted salary for his or her position.
The state's police and fire departments don't classify employees in a uniform manner. To find the average salary for police officers, The Bee looked at police and sheriff's department employees with the word "officer" in their job title, excluding code enforcement officers, animal control officers and supervisors. (For sheriff's department's, The Bee looked for deputies, instead of officers.) Average salary for rank-and-file firefighters includes employees with "firefighter" or "engineer" in their job title. "Captains" and "chiefs" were isolated by looking for those words in their job titles.
For fire and police chiefs, some departments employed more than one chief in the course of the year. In those cases, The Bee used the salary of the chief with the highest reported earnings for the year. If you see a chief's salary that looks particularly low, it's possible that chief only worked part of the year.
Since cashouts for unused sick leave and vacation upon retirement are often large, a department with a high number of retirements during 2014 will tend to show higher average pay. Vacation and sick leave payouts generally don't count toward pension calculations.
Fire and police captains do not have comparable jobs. Police captains usually oversee more employees, and there are more fire captains than police captains.
Source: State Controller's Office