Whoever said crime pays could have just as easily said fighting crime pays.
This year’s Sunshine List, a table of public servants earning more than $100,000, shows 42 per cent of the region’s sworn officers are on the list.
There are 898 officers listed, a jump of 23 per cent from last year’s total of 732 and a 1,626-per-cent rise from 2005, when it was 52.
The highest paid on the list include York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe at $249,584, Deputy Chief Thomas Carrique at $217,802 and Deputy Chief Andre Crawford at $188,335.
In terms of dollars, the 2005 figures add up to $5 million being spent on staff earning more than $100,000. That number is now more than $100 million.
Police union president Todd Sepkowski said when looking at the numbers, the public needs to take a number of details into consideration, including the amount of paid duty, overtime, court time and sick bank payout.
“A lot of firemen have second jobs that aren’t reported on the Sunshine List and paid duty is like a second job to us, difference is it’s counted on our salaries,” he said.
He added that paid duty, which pays about $55 an hour, is paid entirely by private funds, not by the taxpayer.
“There’s no burden to the community on that,” he said, noting that the Sunshine List should be restructured so that those numbers are not included. “Another detail that doesn’t get mentioned is a lot of these numbers are inflated by a one-time sick bank payout that was given out for the final time. It’s not the salary, it’s the extras.”
A first-class constable, with less than eight years service, earns $88,534, according to the police.
Sepkowski further insisted that when an officer is off, but is required in court on that day, he must attend and is, therefore, paid overtime.
However, Maddie Di Muccio, president of the newly formed York Region Taxpayers Coalition, said she would like to see fewer officers conducting paid duty, suggesting the private sector would be just as good at some of the tasks, including directing traffic.
“Why can’t we hire security guards and support private industry when they can do just as an effective job,” she questioned.
She said that is just one of the many problems with police salaries, which she said won’t stop rising until we let go of a “culture of spending” and adopt a culture of saving.
Di Muccio said she understands why public employees feel like they are being attacked and said it’s not their fault, rather those who hold the purse strings.
“It’s going to eventually catch up to us,” she said.
York Regional Police is not the only organization with rising salaries — firefighter salaries across the region are also up, with 409 making the list this year.
The highest paid firefighters include Central York Chief Steve Kraft at $186,760 and Markham Chief William Snowball $180,167.
York Regional Police Const. Andy Pattenden notes the force already posts salaries on its website and said the $100,000 threshold in 1996 (when the list was launched) would be about $140,000 today, taking inflation into account. That would eliminate the majority of the officers listed, considering only 399 officers make a base salary in excess of $100,000.
Greg Horton, president of the Richmond Hill Firefighters Association, said their job is not the same as it used to be, meaning firefighters are no longer “sitting around waiting for fires to happen”, but trained and engaging in medical calls, hazardous material extrication, water rescues, extrications as well as storm and flooding management.
“When all this is taken into account, I think we have to keep in mind that firefighting is an investment, not an expense,” he said, noting firefighters work seven more weeks per year than your average employee because of their 42-hour work week.