Are San Jose Police Salary Demands An Example of How Bay Area Is Unaffordable?

One measure of how expensive the San Francisco Bay Area has become is, of course, the million-dollar starter home — the one-story house with a small garden that would go for less than $400,000 in most other parts of the country.

The current round of salary negotiations for the San Jose Police Department provides another metric: The average annual pay on the police force is about $189,000, not including benefits. For a junior officer, the average salary is about $165,000.

“It’s pretty good pay,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said dryly when asked about the negotiations. “If you compared us to anywhere else in the country, we’d be off the charts.”

Liccardo’s salary is $198,000.

As part of the negotiations, the union representing the officers, the San Jose Police Officers’ Association, is demanding a 14 percent raise and a $5,000 bonus.

At a time of soaring inflation, it’s hard to begrudge anyone for asking for a big raise. But when police officers, on average, are making nearly as much as the mayor, perhaps there is a larger point here about the sustainability of Bay Area salaries and prices.

A nearly 200-page study by Nation published before the coronavirus pandemic starkly laid out how pension costs were eating up municipal budgets.

Contributions to pensions have increased at a much faster rate than the combined spending on things like public assistance, public works or public health. In the first two decades of the 2000s, the amounts that local governments paid in pension contributions increased an average of 400 percent, while operating expenditures grew 46 percent.

Nation calculates that eight years from now, pensions will make up somewhere from 14 to 18 percent of municipal budgets.

Liccardo says pensions are less of a concern in San Jose after a series of negotiations in the mid-2010s scaled them back.

But he sees a much broader problem of simply getting things done: Hourly wages of electricians and plumbers in San Jose — well above $100 per hour, including pension contributions — have reached levels that make some construction projects unviable, especially given the current prices of building materials.

“You see this throughout cities in the Bay Area, where, at a time of an acute housing crisis, we are not building very much housing because it does not pencil out,” Liccardo said.

By the same token, he said, employers like local governments, restaurants and nonprofit organizations are having trouble finding workers, partly because living in the Bay Area has become too expensive and people have moved out.

This can’t continue in the long run, the mayor said.

“We are pricing essential workers out of the Bay Area, and it isn’t sustainable and it doesn’t work,” Liccardo said.

Thomas Fuller is the San Francisco bureau chief for The New York Times.


  1. No – the demands are part of every union negotiation in which you have to posture to the most extreme, ridiculous, bargaining position to support wage and benefit increases that are unsustainable.

    What is ‘unaffordable’ in the Bay Area and California are the worsening crime, graffiti, blight and vagrancy that lawmakers continue to support through Soft-on-Crime Policies, $0 Bails and Revolving Door Jails.

    Support the Police and let them do their job – and when they do their job and arrest offenders – make sure they remain off the streets. There is little value of ‘More’ police and police enforcement if the police effort results in those arrested released before all the admin paperwork is even completed.

    “CA has a particular problem: not only is cash bail being removed, but the state is governed by Proposition 47 of 2014, which makes retail thefts of up to $950 misdemeanors instead of felonies, meaning that few criminals are ever fully prosecuted.”

    —–In LA 14 Looting Suspects Released on CA’s ‘$0.00 Bail’ Rule —–

    “Sean Pritchard, president of the San Jose Police Officers Association, (said Prop 47) is
    “an absolute assault on the safety of San Jose residents,”
    after it allowed for the release of 2 homicide suspects who police believe are connected to a Halloween murder.”
    “The (No Bail) policy allowed a (San Jose) car-theft suspect to be arrested 13 times in 12 weeks after repeated releases, according to the outlet.”

  2. “If you compare us to other cities, we are off the charts!”

    Sam is a goober. What is even more off the charts is housing prices. And on top of that? Daycare prices. And on top of that? Gas prices.

    And have you gone out to eat lately? It’s like $80 for two people to eat pretty much anywhere that doesn’t sell a sandwich or burrito.

    Sam is clearly detached from reality – and as a personal example – my households rent payment + daycare (1-child) = $5,200. We have another little one who needs daycare soon, too, which would push that cost up to about $7,200. Just for housing/daycare. Nothing else. What is the solution? We are moving the end of next year, and taking all the money we saved – and the places we are looking have better schools, a safer community and a 4 bdrm/3 bath homes with 0.75 acres for $600,000. This is a no-brainer, and why so many have left this area.

    Now, Sam, someone who went to Bellarmine and grew up with silver spoons will never understand what the average person has to deal with just to maintain a roof, and keep the kids in school in an area like this. And yes, that goes for anyone making less than $200,000 who is single, and those making less than $350,000 who have children. It’s. That. Bad here. So you’re literally better off making $75,000 in most other cities, compared to the salary officers currently get here.

  3. Personally, I think the unions have been given too much control and are forcing us taxpayers to pay way too much for way too little.

  4. You have zero concept of how the police officer association even works. Very typical. Unions can strike the association cannot. They bargain for the best wages possible. Are you aware that several years ago the association recommended officers accept a paycut and after that went several years with zero cost of living? What are you paying for that the same tax paying cops dont pay for? taxes? Wrong they pay taxes too and contribute the highest portion of their salary to pension in the bayarea. A lot more than Calpers. Sadly you have zero understanding of the actuarial studies that were done and showed how much better San Jose retirment is funded. All while the city took vacations from their contributions during the good years. You probably had a Vote for SAM in your willow glen yard 8 years ago! SMH

  5. Once again we have this $189,000 salary figure. This is Liccardo saying this. This is the same guy who is using alternate emails and not being transparent. Come on man!

    The SJPD website says a new officer will take home $105,000 and seven years later a top step officer will make $169,000. After paying taxes, contributing 19% to their own pension (I think), paying rent, contending with nearly 7% inflation (CPI 6.8)…how is this possible?

    Buying a house? For getta about it. Can’t do it at SJPD.

    We need to attract good officers to San Jose. We need more police (not more politicians). If you can’t afford to live here why would you come?

  6. “Liccardo says pensions are less of a concern in San Jose after a series of negotiations in the mid-2010s scaled them back.”

    Liccardo is referring to Measure B. Measure B was Mayor Reed’s baby. Reed and Councilman Liccardo pushed hard for it to pass.

    There were parts of Measure B that were struck down by a judge. Since both Reed and Liccardo had been attorneys, I’m surprised they didn’t know they would be struck down. Maybe they just didn’t care.

  7. Considering the voting public overwhelming approved Measure B – Reform of Public Pensions, Pensions that were approved by unaccountable elected officials (like Cindy Chavez) to “Buy” future union support on the backs of San Jose taxpayers, it is too bad that a judge had to interfere with the will of the voters.

    Election results: Measure B (June 2012)
    Result: Approved
    “““““““`Votes /“““““`Percentage
    Yes – 95,716 / 69.02%
    No – 42,964 / 30.98%

    The majority of voters also chose to reaffirm a Death Penalty in California – and even approved a proposition to speed up the Death Penalty process, but again an unaccountable (and hypocritical) politician decided to not follow the will of the voters.

    2016 – Proposition 66 – Death Penalty Procedures
    Result: Approved.
    A “yes” vote supported changing the procedures governing state court appeals and petitions that challenge death penalty convictions and sentences, including requiring the amount of time that legal challenges to death sentences take to a maximum of five years.

    2016 – Proposition 62 – Repeal of the Death Penalty
    Result: Defeated
    A “yes” vote supported Repealing the death penalty and making life without the possibility of parole the maximum punishment for murder.
    A “no” vote opposed this measure repealing the death penalty.

    On March 13, 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed an executive order placing a moratorium on the death penalty.
    Sleazy Gavin Newsom again went against the will of the voters and advocated for Violent Killers and ignored the Victims of Murder and the families of Murder Victims.

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