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Pay and Benefits for Law Enforcement Employees

By Eric Yoder
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, June 28, 2004; 3:33 PM

Federal law enforcement officers have the same benefit package that covers other federal workers, however, several enhanced benefits apply.

In order to qualify for the special benefits, the employee must occupy a primary or first-line law enforcement position for at least three years before moving to a secondary (that is, an administrative or supervisory) position. Agency heads may determine that some supervisory positions are "primary.”

Special Pay Provisions

Pay for law enforcement officers varies by locality, with rates higher in areas where the government has the most difficulty recruiting and retaining employees. This group of federal employee has its own set of salary rates.

Many criminal investigators and agents in similar occupations get “law enforcement availability pay, called “LEAP,” an additional 25 percent of base pay for those required to work an additional two hours per day. LEAP is paid in lieu of traditional time-and-a-half overtime pay. Because they typically don’t work a standard 9 to 5, Monday to Friday schedule, law enforcement officers sometimes are eligible for various types of premiums, including night, Sunday, holiday and hazardous duty pay. In general, eligibility for those benefits depends on whether the work was scheduled far enough in advance.

Many federal law enforcement officers who aren’t eligible for LEAP are eligible for another type of premium pay called “administratively uncontrollable overtime.” This “AUO” pay ranges from 10 to 25 percent of an employee's rate of basic pay, based on the average number of hours of irregular or occasional overtime work performed per week. For example, a 25 percent rate is authorized for a position that requires an average of over nine hours per week of irregular or occasional overtime work.As in the "general schedule" that covers most federal white-collar employees, pay for law enforcement officers varies by locality, with rates higher in areas where the government has the most difficulty recruiting and retaining employees. However, law enforcement officers have their own set of salary rates.

Special Retirement Provisions

All newly hired federal employees are put into the Federal Employees Retirement System, which provides Social Security coverage, the 401(k)-style Thrift Savings Plan that includes employer contributions of up to 5 percent of salary and a civil service annuity. Law enforcement officers pay an additional half percentage point of their salaries toward the federal retirement trust fund, making their combined contribution toward that fund, Social Security and Medicare 8.95 percent. In return, they become eligible for retirement at any age with 25 years of service or at age 50 with 20 years.

Law enforcement officers receive a sweetened civil service retirement benefit. It is calculated at 1.7 percent of their highest three salary years per year of service up to 20 years and 1 percent for each year afterward.

In addition, law enforcement retirees receive a special retirement supplement until age 62 when Social Security normally kicks in. Also, inflation adjustments to their federal annuities begin immediately upon retirement. Unlike other federal employees, there is no reduction in the annuity for retiring before age 55.

Law enforcement is one of the few federal occupations with a mandatory retirement age. In general, law enforcement officers must retire at 57 if they have completed 20 years of service. This limit can be extended to age 60 if the agency determines that is in the public interest.

Editor's note: This updated article by Eric Yoder, was first aquired by washingtonpost.com on February 20, 2003.

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