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Compensation of Federal Law Enforcement Officers

A. Introduction

In addition to retirement benefits for federal law enforcement personnel, policymakers are naturally concerned about the adequacy of pay to attract and retain a high quality workforce. In response to a March 2003 request by Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, OPM provided substantial statistical information regarding federal employees with law enforcement duties.

In addition to OPM's response to Chairman Tom Davis' request, in June, 2003, GAO issued Federal Uniformed Police: Selected Data on Pay, Recruitment, and Retention at 13 Police Forces in the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area. A year earlier, CRS prepared detailed tables on compensation for specific groups of federal law enforcement personnel in a memorandum, responding to a request from a congressional committee.




According to the 2003 OPM report, “[e]ntry-level pay and retirement benefits varied widely across the 13 police forces. Annual pay for entry-level police officers ranged from $28,801 to $39,427, as of September 30, 2002.' This disparity exists despite the fact that “[a]ccording to officials, all 13 police forces performed many of the same types of general duties, such as protecting people and property and screening people and materials entering and/or exiting buildings under their jurisdictions.°40 The report also stated that “[o]fficials from 9 of the 13 police forces reported that they were experiencing at least a little or some difficulty recruiting police officers. Officials at 4 of these police forces...reported that they were having a great or very great deal of difficulty recruiting officers and cited pay as a major contributor to their recruitment difficulties.*|

Statistics provided to the Subcommittee by OPM in response to Chairman Tom Davis' letter indicate that the same salary disparities present among federal uniformed police in the Washington Metropolitan Area are present across the federal agencies nationwide.

Two comprehensive analyses of law enforcement pay have been performed in the recent past, the 1990 National Advisory Commission on Law Enforcement and a 1993. OPM Report to Congress, both summarized supra.




Memorandum from Sharon Gressle, Congressional Research Service (Jun. 3, 2002).

Federal Uniformed Police: Selected Data on Pay, Recruitment, and Retention at 13 Police Forces in the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area , GA0-03-658, at 9 (2003). Id. Id. at 4.

B. 1990 National Advisory Commission on Law Enforcement

1. Overview



The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 established the National Advisory Commission on Law Enforcement (NACLE), charging it with studying pay, benefits, and other issues related to the recruitment, retention, and morale of federal law enforcement officers. The scope of the study was limited to occupations meeting the definition of LEO under both CSRS (5 U.S.C. $ 8331(20)) and FERS (5 U.S.C. $ 8401(17))."' The Commission's two major objectives were to “study methods and rates of compensation for law enforcement officers in federal, state, and local agencies and... to develop recommendations to ensure competitive compensation, enhance ability to recruit and retain qualified personnel, and ensure uniform compensation practices among federal law enforcement agencies."


2. Findings

NACLE issued its report in April of 1990, with some of the major findings regarding the pay and benefits of federal public safety officers listed below:

Entry-level pay was inadequate when measured against state and local law enforcement personnel pay, and was inadequate for many federal public safety officers in particular high-cost cities. Lack of adequate pay deterred quality applicants and increased attrition among existing personnel.

While state and local law enforcement entities routinely paid time and half for overtime, only GS-10 and below federal employees were paid for scheduled overtime. Retirement, life insurance, and health insurance also lagged behind state and local entities.

“Significant pay gaps were found in certain high-wage areas, with state and local salaries being 10 to 15 percent greater for all types of federal law enforcement.


3. Recommendations

Some major recommendations of NACLE were as follows:

"Upgrade entry-level salaries for federal law enforcement personnel.”

"Introduce locality pay differentials (from 5 to 25 percent depending on the city) to alleviate the pay disparities facing federal officers in high-wage areas.”



Report of the National Advisory Commission on Law Enforcement, OCG-90-2 (April 1990).
Id. at 38.
Id. at 9-17.



“Provide relocation payments using market-sensitive housing bonuses in highcost areas."

“Develop a consistent policy for all federal law enforcement agencies regarding overtime pay.”

"Ensure that foreign language bonuses be made available for all federal law
enforcement officers who are required to speak a foreign language.”

"Have OPM and law enforcement agencies collect better and more
comprehensive recruitment and retention data.


With some changes, the immediate pay enhancements recommended by NACLE were enacted as part of the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990 (FEPCA).47 FEPCA required that OPM conduct a study of a new pay and job evaluation system for federal law enforcement officers, and OPM released its report in September 1993.

C. 1993 OPM Report to Congress: A Plan to Establish a New Pay and Job

Evaluation System for Federal Law Enforcement Officers

1. Overview

In developing a separate pay and job evaluation plan for law enforcement personnel per the FEPCA mandate, OPM stated that it had two related objectives: “to develop targeted solutions to specific weaknesses in the government's compensation program for Federal law enforcement officers” and “to maintain an appropriate balance between the interests of the law enforcement workforce and the need for equity with other Federal employees.'


Like the NACLE study, OPM's mandate was limited to law enforcement occupations with LEO status, but it also included U.S. Park Police and Secret Service Uniformed Division officers and other executive branch occupations in which employees have arrest or detention authority but do not qualify as LEO's




Id. at 18-19.

A Plan 10 Establish a New Pay and Job Evaluation System for Federal Law Enforcement Officers, U.S. Office of Personnel Management (Sept. 1993).

Id. at 1. Id. at 2.



2. Summary of 1990 FEPCA Enhancements

The OPM report first noted that, in response the NACLE recommendations, FEPCA included several pay enhancements for LEO's and certain other law enforcement personnel. These included:

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Special salary rates for officers in grades GS-3 through GS-10. At the time of the
study, it raised salaries from a range of about 20% for GS-3,4, and 5 to 3% for

Geographic adjustments for officers in eight high-cost metropolitan areas ranging from 4% to 16%.

A capped overtime rate guaranteed to equal at least the employee's rate of basic pay, rather being capped at 1.5 times the GS-10, step 1 rate.

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Foreign language bonuses not to exceed 5% were made available to officers.

Also in 1990, caps were lifted for administratively unauthorized overtime for officers with basic pay in excess of GS-10, step 1.

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3. Findings

OPM's study reached the following conclusions:

Job evaluation- the GS classification was unsuitable for ranking law
enforcement-type work. The law enforcement community did not believe the GS
system, appropriate for a white-collar workforce, was adequate for classifying law
enforcement work, which involved physical demands, life-and-death decision-
making and use of deadly force, nor did it have provisions for recognizing special
skills such as canine handling or EMT certifications.

Basic Pay-OPM found that since passage of FEPCA, entry level federal pay still lagged behind that of state and local officers by about 12 to 16%, but should improve as local comparability payments were implemented. The study also showed that, though entry level pay was low, "all types of Federal law enforcement officers...tend to have greater maximum pay potential in nonsupervisory jobs than their State and local counterparts.”

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OPM drew two conclusions regarding basic pay: 1)“the current nationwide basic pay rates for Federal law enforcement officers are adequate and that any remaining pay disparities would be addressed most effectively through locality pay adjustments rather than through additional nationwide increases," and 2) “any attempt to measure the competitiveness of Federal law enforcement pay must


Id. at 6. 51


consider career progression patterns and maximum pay potential, not just entry


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Retention-OPM measured pre- and post-FEPCA attrition rates for federal law enforcement officers and found that, following passage of FEPCA, “overall law enforcement tumover and quit rates were low relative to the rates for other Federal employees. OPM also found that the levels of turnover and quits vary significantly among the various law enforcement occupations."

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Overtime Pay- OPM found that despite the enhancements in federal overtime pay for officers, employees remained concerned about the following: 1) overtime pay was still viewed as inadequate when compared to the overtime pay of state and local officers, and 2) there were significant differences between the overtime pay policies among federal agencies.

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4. Recommendations

OPM made the following recommendations for a new pay and job evaluation system:

Incorporate FEPCA Pay Enhancements Within Any New System-OPM believed that the higher entry level pay rates and special geographic adjustments should be continued until superseded by a permanent locality pay mechanism.

A New, Separate Job Evaluation System for Federal Law Enforcement Officers- “OPM proposes to develop a new, specially tailored job evaluation system for Federal law enforcement officers based on factors directly related to law enforcement work, such as hazard level, physical requirements, scope of arrest authority, and instantaneous decision-making on the use of deadly force.”

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A Separate Pay System Linked to the General Schedule- According to OPM, this proposed schedule “would band GS grade ranges at the lower levels, where some disparities with non-Federal pay exist and where there are some recruitment and retention problems; and...agencies would be given blanket authority to hire above the minimum rate where needed to compete in the marketplace. As already stated, existing special rates for lower-level law enforcement officers would be incorporated within the new system."

Authorize “Technician Bonus" of Up to $1,500 Per Year for Special Skill and Certification Requirements in Law Enforcement Jobs- “[T]echnician categories would be approved by OPM, and the bonuses would be paid at agency discretion based on its judgment as to (1) the value of the skill, and (2) the degree to which payment of the premium would have a positive impact on mission accomplishment."


Id. at 8-13.

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