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  • Airline to Police

    Just wanted some honest thoughts. I am an airline pilot for a carrier here in the states. Things are looking up and getting ready to move onto the majors soon. I make a great living, currently in the mid 70’s and that will certainly more than double with the move to a major. However I can’t shake the feeling and desire I have always had to go into law enforcement.

    My kids are older now so I don’t have them to worry about as much but I have to be realistic as wel with the financial side of things. What’s a realistic non-recruiter income level I could expect in the coming years? Is more pay given for advancement and if so how does that process work?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    Depends where you work. The valley agencies start at low to mid 50’s. You will definitely get a lot of overtime or be able to work off duty assignments so you will make more than your base for sure. You definitely won’t be making what you would as a pilot especially moving to a major. You will have to start st the bottom with seniority of course. Crappier shifts, calls and last one to get a day off if others put in for the same day. Merit increases/COLA depend on the agency. My agency is getting a 2% COLA raise this year, but we haven’t had one in the last few years, however we have gotten 5% merit increases with a good performance review. You will get raises for specialty assignments and promotions to sergeant. The process is usually submitting a resume then interviewing. After that you are put on a ranking list. Some agencies have a night differential as well. In a nutshell, you can make a good living but it depends greatly on which agency you’re with.
    Last edited by BK4448; 05-12-2019, 01:34 AM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by BK4448 View Post
      Depends where you work. The valley agencies start at low to mid 50’s. You will definitely get a lot of overtime or be able to work off duty assignments so you will make more than your base for sure. You definitely won’t be making what you would as a pilot especially moving to a major. You will have to start st the bottom with seniority of course. Crappier shifts, calls and last one to get a day off if others put in for the same day. Merit increases/COLA depend on the agency. My agency is getting a 2% COLA raise this year, but we haven’t had one in the last few years, however we have gotten 5% merit increases with a good performance review. You will get raises for specialty assignments and promotions to sergeant. The process is usually submitting a resume then interviewing. After that you are put on a ranking list. Some agencies have a night differential as well. In a nutshell, you can make a good living but it depends greatly on which agency you’re with.
      Excellent information and I thank you for it. It terms of promotion to things such as SGT, is that just a normal process everyone goes through eventually or does it require something more? How long does someone work on the force before becoming eligible for those types of promotions? I am actually a rated commercial helicopter pilot with a degree in Aeronautics/UAV's so I am mainly looking at options that have air units in case that is a route available when/if I get to that point. My main thing is just trying to build a realistic timeframe and living in my head so that I can properly prepare/decide if this is feasible.

      Thank you again for your post.

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      • #4
        Most departments operate under civil service rules. Some departments have unions representing employees for collective bargaining purposes (salaries, benefits, promotional opportunities, etc). It is not possible to provide a single answer to your questions that will apply to all (or even most) departments.

        Very generally speaking, a new hire starts out in a probationary position. After academy training there will be field training under the supervision of one or more senior officers. Advancement is usually by steps within the "patrolman" rank over a period of years. Advancement to supervisory positions will usually require a minimum of several years at the basic rank, civil service examination, commanders evaluation, and other factors (including education, specialized training, special skills such as languages, etc). Being promoted will depend first on vacancies as they occur, and your relative ranking among all those eligible for the promotion.

        Many, many officers spend their entire careers at the patrolman level, and there is nothing wrong with that (personally, having been a supervisor, investigator, and police chief, if I had it all to do over again I would have remained a "private in the rear rank" and had far less stress and politicking during my career). Some work into specialized investigative assignments and find a great deal of job satisfaction. Some gravitate toward administrative work. Again, no general rules that are broadly applicable.

        Being a cop is absolutely nothing like you have seen on TV and in the movies. Modern police work is sometimes boring, frequently hectic, sometimes depressing. Revolving door courthouses and politicians who refuse to accept that there really are bad people in the world from whom the community deserves protection, these things result in a great deal of apathy and cynicism. Very little discretion is allowed to individual officers these days; hard and fast rules apply to just about every situation, and the individual officer may not agree with the rules or policies, but must comply in order to remain on the job. Administrators, political hacks, lawyers, and the news media can always be expected to nit-pick everything you do, search for any way to place blame (including blaming the cops for every problem).

        Suggestion: Before you decide to change careers I would suggest that you look into volunteer opportunities in your community. Police reserve programs, sheriff department reserve programs, ride-along programs. You can do these things during your free time, get to know some cops (good and not-so-good), and experience a lot of the business of law enforcement without giving up a very good career to do so. Down the road, if you decide that being a full-time cop is for you, then you can proceed (with a documented history of your volunteer service).

        Best regards.

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        • #5
          I would stay as a pilot! Guaranteed job security, and the chances of coming home every night are much higher!
          Former Police Officer (Injured LOD)
          USAF VETERAN 2004-2012
          "The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day."-LTC Grossman
          Emergency Services Dispatcher, APG MD

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