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The Boys in Green: 8 of 10 top-paid Phoenix city employees are cops

Of the 316 city employees who made more than $200,000 in 2023, a whopping 225 of them worked for the police department.
Phoenix City Manager Jeff Barton was the second-highest-paid city employee in 2023, pulling in more than $400,000.
Phoenix City Manager Jeff Barton was the second-highest-paid city employee in 2023, pulling in more than $400,000. Matt Hennie
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"You don't go into policing because you want to become incredibly wealthy," Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said Tuesday in an interview with Arizona's Family.

But you may be handsomely paid when you leave.

That's the conclusion suggested by the city of Phoenix's employee compensation data, which is publicly available on Phoenix's Open Data website for each year between 2016 and 2023. The top of each Employee Compensation Report is dominated by employees — many of whom retired last year — of the troubled Phoenix Police Department.

For instance, 21 of the city's top 25 earners in 2023 worked for Phoenix police. Of the 316 city employees who made more than $200,000 last year, a whopping 225 of them worked for the police department. They include senior police leadership but also a mix of lieutenants, sergeants and rank-and-file officers.

Assistant Chief Anthony Vasquez, who led the department's investigations division before retiring last year, made nearly $413,000 in 2023. That made him the city's highest-paid employee that year, surpassing City Manager Jeff Barton by about $5,000.

By comparison, police Chief Michael Sullivan, the city's top cop, made $243,800 last year. Gallego, whose salary is capped by city code, made $89,438.

Why are cops paid so much? In an email to Phoenix New Times, Phoenix public information officer Kimberly Martin noted that the city's data incorporates salaries, overtime, shift differential and leave payouts, among other forms of compensation. However, Martin did not respond to requests for more detailed data breaking down each employee by type of compensation earned.

That leaves us to make educated guesses. Notably, Phoenix police have been paying out a lot of overtime in recent years as the department maintains it doesn't have enough cops. Its overtime practices even landed the department in hot water earlier this year. For the many recent retirees at the top of the list, their paychecks may have swelled with payouts of unused leave balances.

If the city provides more data to solve that riddle, we'll update this story to include it. Until then, here were the 10 highest-paid city of Phoenix employees for 2023.

1. Assistant Police Chief Anthony Vasquez: $412,901.20
Vasquez retired at the end of 2023, according to a police spokesperson.

2. City Manager Jeff Barton: $407,478

3. Assistant Fire Chief Shelly Jamison: $371,614.68
Jamison retired at the end of last year.

4. Police Lt. Eric Cochran: $371,463.40
Cochran retired last year and, according to LinkedIn, works in private security now.

5. Police Lt. Hector Gonzalez: $363,262.53
Gonzalez retired last year, according to police.

6. Police Sgt. Bradley Huskisson: $363,073.44
Huskisson also retired but is listed as a volunteer reservist, according to police.

7. Police Cmdr. John Collins: $358,341.36
Collins was one of three assistant chiefs busted down to commander for his role in the political prosecutions of protesters as gang members in 2020. He also retired last year.

8. Police Sgt. Ryan Merrill: $355,197.41
Merrill remains on active duty, according to police. As a sergeant-in-training in 2019, Merrill shot and killed a man who allegedly pointed a gun at him.

9. Police Lt. David Albertson: $354,571.32
Albertson retired last year after 26 years of service, most recently in the homicide unit. According to LinkedIn, he now works for Amazon. A police spokesperson said Albertson also is a volunteer reservist.

10. Police officer Michael Moyer: $331,131.38
Moyer is an active-duty officer.
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