Berkeley taxpayers picked up much of the bill for two police officers to fly to New York City in January to attend the funeral of an officer who had been killed in the line of duty, according to an investigation by the Oakland Tribune.
Berkeley paid $850.60 for lodging and meals for the trip, plus 40 hours of paid work time, according to the Tribune. JetBlue provided free plane tickets.
Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan justified the expense to the Tribune, saying it boosts morale for police officers from one jurisdiction to show their support for officers in other cities who have been killed.
“The coldblooded assassination of peace officers is an attack on the foundation and rule of law upon which our country is based,” said Meehan. Officer Jennifer Coats and an honor guard member went to the Jan. 4 funeral of Officer Wenjian Liu as “a show of support to the NYPD specifically and to demonstrate support for the safety of peace officers, including in Berkeley,” Meehan told the paper.
Berkeley police officers are among the highest paid in the Bay Area. A 2011 salary schedule on the city of Berkeley website shows that an officer with little seniority earns around $92,832 a year. A captain earns around $183,348. Pay rates have increased since 2011. A 2014 Mercury News analysis showed that many officers in Berkeley earned $115,540 a year.
The Tribune investigation found taxpayers funded the cost of sending officers to out-of-town funerals in half of the Bay Area police agencies it queried. San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Richmond all sent officers out of state on taxpayers’ dime, according to the paper.
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