Police Chief Jobs

A police department at any level, be it county, municipal or state, needs someone at the top to ensure that the everyday operations in the department are running smoothly and the department is being accountable to the communities and citizens it serves.

At the county level, this person is usually called the “sheriff” while in municipal departments he is usually called the “police chief,” and at the state level the head of police is often referred to as the “superintendent of police.”

Although exact titles may vary from one city, county or state to another, these are commonly accepted terms referring to the person at the top of the ladder, the head of the police department.

Job Description: A day in the life of the Head of the Department

Any police chief, sheriff or superintendent is ultimately responsible for ensuring that everything is running smoothly in the police department he or she is heading. On an average day, the head of the department may have meetings with his staff to address issues facing the department, discuss ongoing investigations, or sort out management issues within the department.

The head of the department may also be responsible for dealing with budget issues and deciding how to allot funds throughout the department. The head of the department is often also responsible for communicating between the police department and the media or the public.

General Requirements and Training

Every police chief starts out at the bottom of the ladder as a patrol officer, so the general requirements and initial training are the same as that of a patrol officer. It takes years of hard work for an officer to become head of the department. A certain amount of time on the force, a stellar track record and, in some cases, written exams are all part of climbing the ranks to reach the top. Many departments have a promotions list that determines who is eligible to move up in the ranks.

At the county level it is common for a sheriff to be elected by local citizens. In this case, it’s not just a matter of getting promotions within the department but also of campaigning and getting to know the local community.

Salary, Benefits and Opportunities for Advancement

According to information cited by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the minimum annual base salary of a police chief in 2006 was $78,547, while the maximum was $99,698.

Salary.com combines sheriffs and police chiefs in a single category and reports that the middle 50% of police chiefs/sheriffs earn between $88,452 and $99,369 annually. Benefits include retirement plans, health and dental, paid vacation and more.

The numbers from Salary.com are based on HR data reported February 2009. In both the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Salary.com reports, these numbers are base salaries not including bonus and overtime pay.

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