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Santa Clara Cops Enjoy Second Highest Average Salary In California

It has never been a better time to be a cop in Santa Clara — at least as far as your bank account is concerned.

Salary statistics from GovSalaries show that cops in Santa Clara earned the second-highest average compensation in California, tallying an impressive $287,314 annually. 

This figure only includes those whose job title is listed as “police officer,” excluding civilian employees, field training officers and the top brass in the department, such as lieutenants, captains, the assistant chiefs and police chief.  

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The Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) has 98 such officers. A majority of cops working for SCPD earn between $217,000 and $358,000 a year, representing the bulk of the bell curve (25th to 75th percentile). 

In California, the average salary for a police officer is $193,330. SCPD officers earn 49% more than average. Only 6% of police officers nationally earn $230,000 a year or more.

Not only is the average Santa Clara officer earning more than their peers, according to Transparent California, so too are the top earners. 

In 2022, the department’s top-paid police officer was Field Training Officer Thomas Gratny, who earned $516,000 in total pay and benefits, including $130,456 in overtime pay.

Compare this to neighbor San Jose’s 2022 top earner, Duc Ngo, who earned $430,619.

According to the Police Officers Association’s (POA) newest contract, Santa Clara’s police department uses neighboring police departments in Palo Alto, Hayward, Milpitas, Redwood City and Mountain View as benchmarks for wage increases. However, if wages in those cities are lower, Santa Clara police officers’ wages do not decrease.

In 2022, according to Transparent California, nine other officers besides Gratny earned more than $400,000 in pay.

This spike in pay for Santa Clara cops has been a trend the past decade. For instance, in 2011, the average salary was $166,623, 72% lower than in 2022. That salary was 14% lower than the state average. The next year, that gap closed another 2% to 12% below average. Then, in 2013, it narrowed further to 7% below average.

Things really began to take off once Chief Pat Nikolai, a former longtime POA president, took over as the head of the department.

In 2014, Santa Clara cops earned 3% more than their peers. By 2019, they were 36% above average, and in 2020, 44% higher than normal. 

Despite 2022’s sky high police officer compensation, it was actually a decrease from 2021, which saw the City paying Santa Clara cops an average compensation of $292,858 — 51% higher than other California departments and 197% higher than the average police compensation nationwide.

Meanwhile, from 2018 to 2022, Californians in the private sector saw their compensation increase from $71,000 to $92,000 on average, according to Statistica.com.

All this is made more germane by Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s constant insistence that her Council rivals do not value the police department. 

When, during cutbacks brought on by the pandemic, the Council approved cutting the police department’s budget — by a smaller margin than other departments — Gillmor frequently chastised her colleagues that failed to exempt the police department from any cuts.

Gillmor endorsed Nikolai during his campaigns for police chief. Unsurprisingly, the POA has, in turn, endorsed Gillmor’s campaigns. Nikolai rarely — if ever — addresses the Council to oppose Gillmor. [He rarely addresses the council, period.]

Although it isn’t one of the cities Santa Clara uses as a benchmark for comparison, neighbor Sunnyvale doesn’t even pay its police officers as much. A key distinction is that Sunnyvale doesn’t call their cops “police officers.” It lists them as “public safety officers.” 

That is because Sunnyvale cross trains its cops to also be emergency responders and firefighters. Despite this obvious extra responsibility and training, being a cop in Sunnyvale still isn’t as financially cushy as being a cop in Santa Clara. 

Sunnyvale’s top-earning public safety officer in 2022, according to Transparent California, earned only $354,536 — a tidy sum to be sure, but more than $161,000 less than Santa Clara’s top-earning officer the same year.

The contract the POA inked in 2021 seems to solidify Santa Clara’s position as a premier place to work for cops, a trend that is likely to continue at least until it expires at the end of next year.

Related Posts:
Police Chief 10% Raise Proposed
Police Union Campaigns While Negotiating Contract

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6 Comments
  1. CSC 2 months ago
    Reply

    The ‘inked contract’ David refers to is this MOU: https://www.santaclaraca.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/78622/638023094556770000
    .
    The POA has secured more than $30k in outside special interest money to try and keep the Chief of Police a non-professional role with no management experience so that it can be used for contract negotiations in 2025. They used the outside money to put deceitful slicks in your mailbox and put up a big ugly billboard near the police station.
    .
    You’re YES Vote on Measure B will bring a highly professional and credentialed Chief of Police to Santa Clara. The International City Managers’ Association (ICMA), Lexipol (Police1), and the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommend a candidate for Police Chief possess the following…
    • 10 Years Law Enforcement MANAGEMENT Experience
    • Minimum rank of Captain or Deputy Chief.
    • Advanced Education such as a master’s degree in public administration, organizational leadership, or criminal justice.
    • Management training through the FBI National Academy and/or International Association of Chief’s of Police Center for Police Leadership, University of Louisville Southern Police Institute, or Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command.
    • Work experience in the planning, budgeting, community-oriented police staffing areas.
    .
    Without your YES vote, Santa Clara’s current requirement for Chief of Police will remain the same lowly G.E.D. plus just four years’ experience that former Chief Steve Lodge warned us about and allow political meddling that former Chief Mike Sellers described as “a level of hatred and nastiness that has never been seen before.”
    • Police Chief Steve Lodge: https://www.svvoice.com/letters/letter-from-steve-lodge/
    • Police Chief Mike Sellers: https://sanjosespotlight.com/santa-clara-police-chief-mike-sellers-will-retire-before-term-ends/
    .
    Please Vote YES on Measure B!

  2. John Haggerty 2 months ago
    Reply

    Thank you for your fact-filled article. The City Council needs to bravely stand firm and united when it renegotiates the SCPD pay contract next year. What goes up must come down.

  3. Fred 2 months ago
    Reply

    Pretty good investment the POA made when it purchased Gillmor and Watanabe, and the other white women who gave them what they wanted. Now that we’ve moved to a district system the composition of the council has changed and the next set of negotiations will be tough for the police. Expect them to spend a lot more money on their candidates, and on fear mongering.

  4. CSC 2 months ago
    Reply

    Agreed, John. Before we get to 2025 there is another contest that needs to be won in November 2024, just nine months away…
    .
    District 1: New Council Member to REPLACE Kathy Watanabe
    District 4: Reelect Kevin Park
    District 5: Reelect Suds Jain
    District 6: New Council Member to REPLACE Anthony Becker
    .
    Whichever district you live in, consider helping those campaigns.

  5. CSC 2 months ago
    Reply

    Agreed, Fred. Before we get to 2025 there is another contest that needs to be won in November 2024, just nine months away…
    .
    District 1: New Council Member to REPLACE Kathy Watanabe
    District 4: Reelect Kevin Park
    District 5: Reelect Suds Jain
    District 6: New Council Member to REPLACE Anthony Becker
    .
    In the current Measure B battle, the POA asked outside special interests to donate money. They received more than $30,000 from a Sacramento area PAC and the POA were the ones who put up $15,000 for Satish Chandra, Joyce Davis, and others to sue the City’s impartial ballot language. When the time comes, see if you can help in your district.

  6. Not CSC 1 month ago
    Reply

    CSC you can sit down now and stew in your self absorbed fixation. It seems you are the minority and the voters have spoken. What’s next on your agenda?

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