The City of San Bernardino faces growing criticism of its Police Department as it relates to a lack of promotional opportunities for officers of color within the agency. This, coupled with the high percent of officers who live outside the community, is even more concerning when considered in relation to the wages of the city’s police officers that are way out of proportion to nearby communities.
Of the 235 police officers serving the City of San Bernardino only 16 of the officers or seven percent live within the city limits. And when it comes to police compensation although San Bernardino is the poorest city in the region—on par with poverty experienced in the State of Mississippi—a new police officer in San Bernardino earns about $80,628 a year and this does not include the cost of their healthcare and other benefits. This is nearly double the median household income of San Bernardino residents in 2017 of $41,027 a year (2018 income data will be available sometime this month).
When the salary of San Bernardino police is compared to the salaries of new officers in other communities like Riverside who pays its new officers $74,976.00 yearly; Fontana’s new officers earn $74,256.00 yearly; new officers in Redlands earn $69,996.00 per year; Colton’s new officers earn $68,688.12 yearly; and the salary of new officers in Rialto is about $62,124.00 yearly.
Despite this glaring and egregious disparity in pay between San Bernardino police and the median salary of city residents or as compared to other nearby cities it is incomprehensible that city officials recently approved a 3.5 percent pay increase for local police personnel. The increase takes on greater absurdity when considered in context of the city’s $11.2 million budget deficit.
City officials declared the increase was required by agreements made with police unions earlier in the decade. However, for the city to have agreed to these increases during its most fiscally tenuous years as it struggled with deficits and was forced to declare bankruptcy is a languishing reminder of the failed leadership during that era and the flailing leadership now.
No one begrudges officers making a fair salary, but the question is whether the high salaries being paid them is fair considering the city’s high rate of poverty, median income and looming budget deficit. I say it is not.
Something is wrong in San Bernardino and it appears the city’s new leadership lacks the knowledge, willingness or experience to navigate and mitigate the faulty decisions of past administrations regarding police pay. Instead, it appears they are comfortable with the status quo and seem determined to continue steering the city on a perilous and unpopular course.
Poor minority communities like San Bernardino should not be exploited by a city council that fails to muster the courage to fight for what is in the best interest of the citizens they were elected to represent or by a police force that appears to have little connection to the area beyond squeezing a shamefully high paycheck from a poverty-stricken community.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.