Edward Claughton
PRI Management Group

The issue of public sector pensions has been all over the news lately.  It seems to have taken on a life of its own, reaching a tipping point leading many to believe those who work in public safety are paid too much and receive unnecessary pension benefits. Why?  Are our jobs misunderstood? Is society’s view of public safety skewed somehow such that people truly believe we are paid too much?  Are we?  Are pensions a thing of the past?

A comment posted by a reader to one of the recent Miami Herald articles about police and fire pensions (and why we are paid too much) suggested that police officers don’t have the skill set to justify the amount of money we are paid.  This reader eloquently and articulately wrote what at face value seemed like legitimate arguments against “high” police salaries.  But his comment neglected to take into account the various assignments one can have in law enforcement.

Running a police department is just like running a business except the bottom line isn’t the dollar it’s ensuring public safety.  We have scheduling and training requirements, payrolls and budgets to manage, and customer service issues to attend to.  Police managers oversee significant budgets and must be good stewards of the public’s money.  We have cars to purchase, technology to maintain, and equipment to issue.  There are countless certification and legal mandates to adhere to annually and, we must attend to our employees needs.  Its not just driving around and issuing tickets like this reader suggested. There is a pecking order and rank structure, the pay of which is commensurate with each level of responsibility.  So is a police “officer” who makes over $100,000 with responsibility of managing several million dollars in a budget and a hundred or so employees overpaid?

Society needs to take a step back for a moment; take the foot of the gas and tap the brakes to slow this animal down.  It’s prudent is it not to weigh the importance of public safety and the protection of life and property against the cost of ensuring employee satisfaction? Shouldn’t society consider the right to be free from the intentional harm of criminals a priority and thus the fair pay of those who protect it?  You get what you pay for.

Certainly fair is fair and if state and local governments truly can’t afford their current pension plans for legitimate reasons like a downturn in the economy then concessions should be made on both sides of the table.  But if pension funds were improperly funded should employees bear the burden?

If this were September 12th, 2001 would any of this chatter be happening?

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