If you have been considering a career in criminal justice, the chances are that you’ve noticed that police officers have different ranks. Ranks are used within law enforcement to demonstrate seniority. Each police department is unique and could have all or just a few ranks (or potentially have a similar rank with a different name). Below we examine the most commonly used police ranks and the general salary range for each position.
The Police Chief (sometimes referred to as the Police Commissioner) is the entire department’s head. The mayor or city council appoints the Chief. The responsibilities of this role include overseeing the department and ensuring it is running effectively. The Chief will manage the department budgets, staffing, and reporting to the mayor and/or city council.
There is a broad range of salaries for a Police Chief. For a large municipality like the City of Boston, the Police Commissioner will make upwards of $250,000.
Deputy Police Chief
The Deputy Police Chief has a wide range of responsibilities depending on the department’s needs. Some of these responsibilities can include assisting the Police Chief or the Police Commissioner in planning and directing the department’s different sections. This role is also typically involved in supervising police officers, investigators, and administrative staff. Additionally, if the Chief of Police needed to be absent for any reason, the Deputy Police Chief would assume the Chief’s responsibilities.
The average salary for a Deputy Chief is around $81,901 but can go up to $135,000 for a more experienced Deputy Chief in a larger municipality.*
The Police Captain supervises and commands a precinct or a division of the police department. A Police Captain will manage the use of resources throughout their division. A Captain will look at crime statistics and then make management decisions on where it makes the most sense to allocate money and staffing. Overall, the Police Captain’s primary responsibility is to make sure policing priorities and funding meet citizens’ needs. Additionally, the Police Captain needs to serve as a manager to ensure morale is high, and the work environment is positive within their command.
A Police Captain’s salary ranges from $52,000 to $160,000, with a median income of $81,000.*
While the Police Captain focuses on the overall management of a division or precinct, the Lieutenant manages daily activities. Among many responsibilities, the Lieutenant will oversee the officers under his or her command. This oversight includes determining shifts and approving overtime. This position requires leadership ability, and the Lieutenant is expected to motivate and manage employees. A Lieutenant also oversees the training of officers, evaluates the performance of individuals, and recommends promotions.
A Lieutenant should expect to make anywhere between $51,000 and $143,000 with a median income of around $78,000.*
The Police Sergeant rank is the first supervisory role going up the chain of command. A Sergeant will perform the role of a police officer, while also supervising officers and other employees. This role would typically be expected to create and distribute shift notices and assignments, conduct interviews and evaluations of potential police officer candidates, and administer performance reviews.
The Sergeant’s salary ranges from $45,000 and $114,000, with a median income of about $69,000.*
The Police Corporal will report to and work closely with the Police Sergeant to execute his or her orders and is an entry-level supervisory role. A Corporal manages police personnel assigned by the Sergeant under his or her command. Corporals perform law enforcement responsibilities, but also have administrative and management duties.
Like all positions, the Police Corporal’s salary varies considerably based on the individual’s experience and size of the municipality. In the city of Dallas, Texas (population of 1.334 million), Corporals can be expected to earn $79,000 to $89,000.
Police Officer/Patrol Officer/Detective
A Police Officer’s overall responsibility is to enforce the law and protect citizens in their city, precinct, or district. A Police Officer’s role can range from general duties such as patrolling neighborhoods to creating positive community relations through outreach and educational services, to arresting and processing criminals and testifying in court when called. Police Officers are also typically expected to write reports and conduct initial investigations of crimes.
A Police Detective’s role can be more specific, focusing on areas such as homicide, sex crimes, or property crimes. Detectives are expected to interview suspects, gather facts, lead raids/arrests, and report on their findings.
A Police Officer’s salary greatly varies with an opportunity for overtime pay. In Massachusetts, a Police Officer can earn from $31,000 to $126,000 with a median income of $61,000.*
Police Technicians play an essential role in the behind-the-scenes organization and filing of paperwork. For example, if a civilian needs help to file a report of non-violent crimes such as an auto accident or theft, a Police Technician would typically take the information and file it. This role is usually entry-level and is occupied by a civilian or a probationary Police Officer.
Accordingly to comparably.com, the US average salary of a Police Technician is $37,946.
*according to payscale.com
While the structure is different within each municipal police department, there are general consistencies. Depending on the size of the department, the number of divisions and units may vary. In 2016, the FBI estimated that there are more than 18,000 local police departments across the country.
Each department is unique in its structure and size, depending on its municipality’s needs; however, most departments tend to follow a basic format with a Chief of Police on the top of the police department hierarchy. Under the Chief of Police, there are at least two, but more likely, three divisions: Operations, Administration, and Investigations/Support.
These three units serve unique but equally essential functions.
Chief of Police
Police departments typically are led by a Chief of Police, although this lead role is also referred to as Commissioner or Superintendent. In large metropolitan areas, the head of the police department is typically called the Police Commissioner, and in smaller towns, this role is typically the chief of police. For example, the Boston Police Department is headed by Police Commissioner William Gross, while a smaller town like Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is headed by Chief of Police Robert Merner.
This position is appointed by the town’s leadership, such as the mayor, the city council, or commission. The Police Chief or Commissioner will report directly to the mayor. This role typically requires at least a bachelor’s degree, although many police chiefs also have a graduate degree.
The Operations Division is commonly what people think of when they think of the police department. It consists of the department’s largest number of personnel. Additionally, the Patrol Division potentially has the most contact with the public. Roles within this division can include Traffic, Animal Control, Parking, Community Policing, Patrol Watch, Auxiliary Police, and Patrol Officers. The number of Patrol Officers in a police department (and how specialized the position is) varies depending on the city’s size. For example, Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a population of 105,162 residents, has 215 police/patrol officers, while a smaller town like Concord, Massachusetts, with a population of 17,669, has only 22 patrol officers.
A police department’s administrative division does much of the behind the scenes work to keep the entire department functioning. Specialized services within this department include Record Management, Training, Crime Analysis, Communications, Administration, Property/Evidence, Dispatch, and Fingerprinting. An applicant does not need to attend the police academy or have extra training for many administrative positions.
Although not the part of a police department seen by the public, the Investigations/Support Division is commonly depicted on television shows like Law and Order. This division includes detectives focused on specific public safety matters like domestic violence and vice/narcotics. While the Patrol Division is more likely to deal with crimes as they are happening, the investigators and detectives are responsible for the followup investigation of most crimes. They do this by interviewing witnesses and gathering and analyzing evidence. Typically to become a detective, someone would need to start as a Patrol Officer to gain experience and then apply or be promoted to a detective position.
The police department offers jobs for all levels of training and experience in these three different divisions. Browse jobs in each of these sectors on our job portal or upload your resume for free and be found by police departments looking for qualified candidates.