The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

El Camino police officers among highest paid in the state

El Camino College Sergeant Ruben Lopez patrols the campus in a police electric cart at El Camino College on February 14, 2024. Lopez earned around $204,000 in 2022. (Raphael Richardson | The Union)

El Camino College’s police officers were some of the highest paid community college cops in the state, state payroll data shows.

Out of over 500 California community college police officers in 2022 only 16 of them made over $200,000.

Of those 16, five of those were El Camino officers, according to public pay records made available by Transparent California.

Transparent California is a government watchdog that collects and displays government employee compensation data from across the state for the general public to view, director of research Todd Madsen said.

“There are roughly 4,600 public agencies in the state of California,” Madsen said. “So collecting data from them is pretty time intensive.”

The most current payroll data available to Transparent California is for fiscal year 2022, with Transparent California getting ready to send requests out for more current data.

Five officers out of the 12 man department made over $200,000 each in pay and overtime combined without benefits, earning more than many college administrators at El Camino, which had just over 20,000 students and 1,383 employees in fall 2022.

The highest paid officer at El Camino in 2022 was Sergeant Arnold Jackson, who had a total pay of just over $254,000.

Jackson, who has since retired in January 2023, was the second highest paid community college cop in all of California.

He was beat out in pay by only one other officer Francisco Rocha, a police officer from the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Police Department.

At a community college district with around 29,500 students and 1,744 employees, Rocha made a whopping $321,000, earning him the title of highest paid community cop in California.

With this information compared to other colleges, the salary that cops at El Camino are making can be considered an anomaly.

Cerritos College had around 21,000 students enrolled in the fall of 2022, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Data Mart, which holds student statistics and records of all community colleges in California.

The highest paid patrol officer at Cerritos in 2022, which employed 15 officers at the time, earned around $174,500. At El Camino, the highest paid officer, a sergeant, was $245,000, a 71% increase from what Cerritos officers make.

“We were just getting regular pay, plus some overtime,” Cerritos Campus Police Sergeant Angel Castillo, who himself made just under $154,000, said in a phone call.

At Santa Monica College, which had around 25,000 students and 27 officers, the highest paid cop was the chief of police, who made just over $192,000.

Mt. San Antonio College, with over 35,000 students in 2022, employed about 16 public safety officers. Like Santa Monica, their highest paid was the chief at around $181,000.

Further up north, the 21,000 student College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita employs 15 campus safety officers, the most expensive being an officer who made $155,000.

It may look like overtime may be to blame for the pay discrepancies, which would correspond with overtime boosts that first responders around the state are getting.

The most radical instances of high overtime leading to massive cashouts would be in the city of Los Angeles, whose highest paid employee in 2022 was Fire Captain II Jason Getchius, who made $692,000.

For Getchius, $500,000 of that was just in overtime costs. Madsen says that high overtime costs have been an issue.

“Now the pay [has] been going up pretty radically, pretty fast,” Madsen said. “Everytime we hear that they have a hard time recruiting, say police officers, firefighters… we hear that the answer is higher pay.”

In this case, it does not appear that overtime is the issue. The five highest paid officers at El Camino in 2022 had overtime costs that varied between $42,000 and $63,000.

These numbers are high compared to the overtime costs of other campus police salaries, but they fall in line with those at Cerritos College, whose three highest paid officers had overtime costs ranging from $42,000 to $59,000.

Instead, the real answer to the question of El Camino’s high police salaries lies in a document, signed almost three years ago in 2021.

The document is the “Agreement between El Camino Community College District and El Camino College Police Officers Association,” which is a union contract covering everything from meetings, to using telephones.

Within the 98 page document is Article 20 Section 7, labeled “Emergency Closure,” which El Camino Police Chief Michael Trevis, who made almost $161,0000 in 2022, said is the answer to high salaries.

“There is a section in the bargaining agreement that talks about emergency pay if the governor… declares an emergency, then the El Camino police officers can receive time and a half [pay] for every day that they are working here,” Trevis said.

Within Subsection B of Section 7, it is stated that the time-and-a-half clause will go into effect should another state of emergency be declared by the state, which happened five days before the police bargaining agreement.

Trevis, who will be retiring this June, also mentioned while regular hours would be paid out as if they were overtime, actual overtime costs were left alone, hence why they were on par with other colleges.

The clause also stated that once the state of emergency ended, the pay would return to normal, which happened when Governor Gavin Newsom ended the emergency on February 28, 2023.

“[We haven’t had COVID pay] since the governor declared it was not an emergency,” El Camino Police Sergeant Ruben Lopez, who made $204,000 in 2022, said.

As the college tries to cut costs over its looming deficit, Trevis says the police department will try to hire more officers for campus safety and to cut overtime costs.

“I do know that other people… want to keep our campus as safe as possible,” Trevis said. “We’re trying to do the best with what we’ve got.”

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