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Opinion

Why so many want to be Long Island cops

Suffolk County police

Suffolk County police Photo Credit: Newsday/David Pokress

The more than 30,000 applicants who've signed up to take the Suffolk County police civil service test on June 11 have about a 1-in-150 chance of being hired over the next four years. To put that in perspective, applicants to Harvard Business School, who know a diploma from that institution can be the gateway to a lifetime of comfort and wealth, have about a 1-in-10 chance of being accepted.

The Suffolk department pays rookies $42,000, but after five years the base salary is $108,000, which does not include overtime or benefits. The pay is plenty, but a five-year veteran in Suffolk also gets 13 paid holidays, 27 vacation days, 26 sick days and five personal days, for a total of 71 paid days off a year, or 1.4 per week.

Nassau, where the average officer makes $107,000 -- and it costs $204,000 a year, including benefits, to put a cop on the street -- has a similarly high number of applicants.

It's little wonder that veteran New York City officers, who make about half as much, are a huge contingent of the hopefuls taking the Nassau and Suffolk tests.

The labor market works on the law of supply and demand. The number of applicants trying to get jobs at the Nassau and Suffolk county police departments makes it clear that the salaries and benefits, even considering the danger and difficulty of the job, are plenty generous. There's nothing wrong with public service paying well, but getting a job on the police force shouldn't be akin to winning the lottery.

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