Photo RAFAEL MURILLO, La Nacion
Photo Rafael Murillo, La Nacion

QCOSTARICA – In an article by La Nacion on Thursday entitled Policías ganan menos que guardas de instituciones públicas (police earn less than guards public institutions) we are shown those who put their lives on the line for us everyday earn as much as 24% less than a university security guard for example.

The article compares the salaries of a police officer of the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública (MSP), with those of security guards at the state university, the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR); the courts, Poder Judicial; the legislative assembly, Asamblea Legislativa; and the elections tribunal, Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE).

For example, we learn that the guards at the UCR and Supreme Court earn more than ¢122.000 colones monthly than do police officers.

Infograph by La Nacion
Infograph by La Nacion

After ten years on the job, the university security guards earn more than ¢636,000 colones monthly, while police officials, with the same time on the job, averaged out ¢514,000 colones monthly (US$975 or US$11,700 per year at today’s dollar exchange rate*).

The amounts include base pay, annuities and police risk incentive (equivalent to 18% of base pay). However, they do not take into account the economic benefits for full-time work or training.

Scott Oliver, on his website Welovecostarica.com, compares the annual salary for a police official in Costa Rica,  to the annual mean wage of ‘Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers’ in May 2014 in New Jersey who earns US$88,530 per year; in California, US$87,520 per year; in Alaska, US$75,670 per year; and in New York, US$72,310 per year. The salary information for Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers taken from the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One of the questions my many foreigners looking at living in Costa Rica is personal safety. The consensus in many of the blogs is “difficult to put one’s personal and family safety in the hands of a government employee paid such a low salary”.

The deputy director general of the Fuerza Publica, Nils Ching recognizes the wage gap with other state institutions, but ensures that the police officials can close that gap over the years of work, if they specialize and take training courses.

“A lot depends on them. There are many institutions that increase up to 35% of wages to the extent that its officials are progressing and training,” Ching told La Nacion. He added that members of the basic police force are different from their counterparts in other institutions because they have a higher level of training.

While the salary comparison was made at the three “high level” institutions, not all public entities pay the higher salaries. Examples are the salaries of guards working at the central government, the In

Other public entities, however, pay their salaries vigilant lower than those of the security forces. Such is the central government; the state power and telecom institution – Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE); the Atlantic port authority, the Junta de Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo Económico de la Vertiente Atlántica (Japdeva); and the State refinery, la Refinería Costarricense de Petróleo (Recope), where monthly salaries average ¢388,000 colones.

Back to Scott Oliver, he asks the question and answers it, “if you were a Costa Rican Police Officer, would you put your life on the line for a stranger for a salary of ¢514,000 colones per month?If your answer is no! Then I would encourage you to make sure that *you* take full responsibility for the safety and security of you, your family and your property wherever you may live in this world.”

Sources:

* Banco Central de Costa Rica exchange rate today is ¢527.35 to US$1