News Story

MLive Erroneously Reports New Flint Police Officers Get Just $11.25/Hour

News site confuses police academy trainee stipends with starting salaries of sworn officers

A report by the MLive news site stated that the city of Flint pays new police officers just $11.25 an hour, which is less what than janitors, manicurists and bellhops earn.

This is misleading because it’s the amount paid to prospective officers who are still going through the police academy. It is not what they get if they complete the training, join the police force and are enrolled in the union. The pay rate of $11.25 per hour only applies to those who are enrolled in a 16- to-18 week training program at a local community college.

A candidate who completes the course and is sworn in as a police officer begins collecting a salary and benefits prescribed in the city’s contract with the local police union. New Flint police officers are paid $36,444 in their first year on the job, which if calculated on an hourly basis comes to $17.52 an hour. But officers often earn much more through overtime pay, which is a regular feature of public safety employment.

Two types of candidates enter the police academy, according to the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards. Both are covered by the state minimum wage while taking the training course, which is the source of the $11.25 an hour pay rate reported by MLive.

Some recruits are considered “exempt employees,” which means the city of Flint has already offered them a position on the police force contingent on completing the training. For these candidates, the city picks up the $5,525 cost of the training course, according to the Law Enforcement Regional Training Academy. Recruits receive their training at Mott Community College.

Other recruits enroll in the police academy before being offered a position by the city, and they are responsible for paying the $5,525 training fee.

MLive characterized the trainee pay rate as pay cut for Flint police, which is not accurate.

The Sept. 13 MLive article contrasted the police trainee rate with low-paying positions such as substitute teachers ($12.46 an hour), security guards ($13.05 an hour), restaurant cooks ($11.45 an hour) and janitors ($12.56 an hour).

In contrast with trainees, city of Flint police officers earn a base salary of $36,444 in their first year. Under the current union contract, their pay increases to $53,535 by their fifth year. Flint police also get health insurance benefits that greatly exceed those offered in a typical $11-to-$14 an hour job. They are covered by a Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance policy that features a very broad provider network with a $2,000 annual deductible for a family plan.

"The position that is currently posted is for Police Officer Recruit, not Police Officer,” said city of Flint spokeswoman Kimberly Floyd in an email. “Recruits are considered exempt employees and are applicants who have not been through a police academy yet. When the City of Flint hires someone as a Police Officer Recruit, we pay their tuition for the Academy and pay them an hourly rate to attend school. Once they complete the Academy, they are then sworn in as Police Officers and the Collective Bargaining rate will take effect.”

The base salary does not represent how much public safety employees actually earn each year, because it does not include the overtime pay that regularly accrues due to the nature of these jobs.

For example, Michigan Capitol Confidential looked at the pay of Detroit police officers in 2015. Detroit police at the top of the union pay scale earned a base salary of $56,927 that year. But public records show that when overtime pay was included the average officer was paid $59,511, and some collected much more. The highest paid police officer received $107,602 in 2015.

Clark Hughes, the interim regional news manager for The Flint Journal, The Saginaw News and The Bay City Times, did not address any of the inaccuracies in an emailed response to questions about news site’s report.

“We stand by the reporting and have no further comment,” Hughes said in an email.

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.