News Story

The Six Figure Cops of Sterling Heights

In Sterling Heights, Police Chief Michael Reese made $132,310 in 2009. He was only the third highest paid employee in his department.

Sgt. Paul Korell's $146,256 and Sgt. Guy Holmes' $138,322 were the two highest annual paychecks in a department where 50 of the 254 full and part-time employees made six figures.

The six-figure salaries include gross income, which includes overtime.

Sterling Heights officials didn't return messages seeking comment. In May, the city council raised the millage rate by 1.9 mills to balance its $140 million budget.

Ed Jacques, spokesman for the Police Officers Association of Michigan union, said Sterling Heights has historically been one of the best paid police departments in the state.

"Sterling Heights officers make good money," Jacques said.

However, he said the average base pay of a patrol officer in the Metro Detroit area is about $58,000.

Jacques said when pay exceeds six figures, it is usually because of overtime.

"If that much overtime is available, does that mean we don't have enough officers?
The answer is probably, 'Yes.' Then, why aren't they hiring more police officers? It is cheaper to pay the overtime."

"They sacrifice the soccer games. They sacrifice the camping up north. They work the overtime. If somebody else wants to work the 70 hours a week they had to work to make that money, they are welcome to it," Jacques said.

"What is the issue here?" Jacques asked. "Do you guys think the police officers are making too much money?

Michael LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, wondered if the Sterling Heights' police were making more than market value.

"If there were market competition for those police jobs, would they make six figures?
I suspect the answer is, 'No.' Without some bidding process we will never know," LaFaive said. "I recommend the city ask for a competitive bid from the Macomb County Sheriff to provide services."

LaFaive pointed to Mt. Clemens as an example of how contracting with county police can save millions.

According to Marilyn Dluge, finance director for Mt. Clemens, the city saved $1.4 million in 2005, the first year it contracted for police services with the county. She said after that, it was about a million a year in savings.

Dluge said moving police services to the county was a big reason the city's general fund balance has increased from just $668,000 in 2004 when police were in-house to $4.3 million this year.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.