Cops Dunk on Study Naming California ‘Best State to Be a Police Officer’

Cops Dunk on Study Naming California ‘Best State to Be a Police Officer’

Protesters hold signs in support of defunding the police in Oakland, Calif., on July 25, 2020. (Natasha Moustache/Getty Images)

Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin


Updated: 5/12/2024


Several police unions are disputing a recent survey by WalletHub that named California the best state in the nation to be a police officer, saying the reality is far different than the ranking.
According to the credit report platform, California ranked first among all U.S. cities for police officers because it spent the highest per capita on public safety, and state and local police.
Police unions say the authors didn’t survey rank-and-file officers or sheriff’s deputies about “the realities of law enforcement in California prior to releasing this click-bait headlined study.”
Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, pointed to low officer morale caused by historically low police staffing levels in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose, and mandatory overtime.
“We don’t see any of these metrics in this ‘study’ but that is the reality law enforcement officers face in California,” Mr. Lally said in a press release Wednesday.
WalletHub did not take into account the high cost of living in the state, especially housing costs, Mr. Lally added.
According to WalletHub, California has an average starting salary for police officers of just over $5,500 a month, which is the fourth-highest wage in the country. The median annual wage in the state for patrol officers is over $84,100, which the company said was adjusted for the cost of living, and the third-highest nationwide.
California also requires rigorous training for officers, with 560 hours of field training required, the second highest in the nation. Before that, the state mandates 664 hours of basic training and doesn’t allow officers to work in the field before they have completed it.
Officers in the state also must take de-escalation training, which WalletHub said reduces the chances of fatalities for officers and suspects. The state also has a system of “Blue Alerts,” which WalletHub said can speed up the apprehension of suspects who injure or kill police officers.
“Some states make protecting and serving the public in a law enforcement career more appealing than others,” Casandra Happe, a WalletHub analyst, said in a statement about the study May 6.
The ranking was criticized by Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale police unions.
Marcus Barbour, president of the Santa Clara County Deputy Sheriffs Association, said staffing is down and overtime is taking a toll on officers and their families.
“Our department’s sworn staffing is down 34 [percent], and if you’re not assessing staffing issues as to whether a location is a good place to work, you are completely missing the target as to what actual sheriff’s deputies believe,” Mr. Barbour said.
“This chronic short staffing necessitates our deputies to work forced overtime to minimally staff our patrol and court division. Our deputies are tired, they are missing quality time at home with their families.
“It’s about personal time for them, not the median salary posted on some website’s chart,” he added.
In Sunnyvale, a suburb of San Francisco, some new officer recruits are demoralized, according to the Sunnyvale Public Safety Officers Association.
“Our department has successfully recruited out-of-state candidates for several years,” said Devon Klein, president of Sunnyvale’s union. “However, once they get there and face the reality of housing costs, the demoralization of constant legislative efforts that degrade or vilify the profession, and the overall declining morale in our department, too many return to their home state or go elsewhere.”
Illinois was named as the second-best state to be a police officer, followed by Connecticut.
To determine rankings, WalletHub compared 50 states and the District of Columbia using three metrics: opportunity and competition, law enforcement training requirements, and job hazards and protection.
The data was collected April 8 from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other government sites, according to WalletHub.

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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