Southeastern States Rank Lowest for Law Enforcement Salaries

Dec. 1, 2023
Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana are the states with the lowest annual median income for law enforcement officers, while California has the highest.

Consider this: The median salary for law enforcement officers in California last year was $104,160, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

In South Carolina, it was $46,800, the fourth worst pay in the country.

Not surprising, you might say, since the cost of living in California is so high.

But USA Facts looked into the numbers further and discovered that even after factoring in what it takes to live in the various United States, the pay still is highest in California as well as Washington State, No.2 at $94,107, and Illinois, 4 at $86,130.

The No. 2 highest paying state, New Jersey with a median salary of $86,130, didn’t do as well on the cost of living comparison. Hawaii came in 5th with a median salary of $86,080.

James Jones, executive director of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association, said Gov. Henry McMaster has succeeded in increasing pay for state officers such as SLED and Highway Patrol, but cities and counties must follow suit.

He said officers, especially those in mid-career, have opted to go to North Carolina, which has a better retirement system, or Florida with no income tax.

But an interesting situation is developing with the recent relocation of officers from the west, especially California, to South Carolina for the quality of life, Jones said.

“People here still respect law enforcement,” he said.

Police officers earned more than the national average of $65,790 in 19 states and Washington, DC.

The states that ranked lowest were in the Southeast, USA Facts said.

The lowest was Mississippi, with an annual median of $37,240, Arkansas $39,040 and Louisiana $44,620.

Zip Recruiter said South Carolina’s law enforcement officers make on average about $25 an hour.

Zip Recruiter drilled down a bit on the salaries and found 10 cities where the typical salary is above the average for the state.

Folly Beach same in first, followed by Greer and Chester close behind.

Folly Beach officers make $15,924 above South Carolina’s average of $52,628. That’s 30% higher than the average.

The Folly Beach Department of Public Safety has an authorized strength of 29 Public Safety Officers and most hold certification for police, firefighter and EMS, according to its website.

USA Facts said the San Jose- Sunnyvale- Santa Clara metropolitan area in California had the nation’s highest median police officer salaries at $132,930 per year and 16 if the top 20 metro areas were in California.

Alexandria, Louisiana, northeast of Baton Rouge, was the lowest-paying metro area for police officers in 2022, with an average salary of $36,260, USA Facts said.

Nationwide, the data company found among public service related jobs, nurses make the most followed by officers. Filling out the top five were teachers, librarians and utility workers.

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