Los Angeles Beach Lifeguards Get Big Cash and Plush Retirement Benefits

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Los Angeles lifeguard captain Daniel Douglas was paid $510,283 in 2021, including a base salary of $150,054 and $246,000 in overtime. But wait, there’s more! Douglas also received $28,661 in “other compensation” and benefits valued at $85,508.

Douglas was the highest paid among 98 Los Angeles-area beach lifeguards found by Open the Books, who “earned at least $200,000 including benefits, and 20 earned between $300,000 and $510,283. Thirty-seven lifeguards earned between $50,000 and $247,000 in overtime alone.

And that’s not even the end. Lifeguards in Los Angeles can retire at age 55 and receive up to 79% of their base salary, making them participants in one of the increasingly rare “defined benefit” retirement programs in the world. country.

Most private employers and many government agencies have moved in recent years to “defined contribution” programs that define benefits based on the employee’s contribution to the plan.

Measured over the six years since 2016, Daniels has received just under $1 million in total compensation, according to Open the Books, which is a nonprofit government watchdog that describes itself as seeking to publish on the internet. “every penny, online, in real time.”

Data provided by the Los Angeles Fire Department, which oversees lifeguards, shows they are involved in dozens of rescues each day throughout the beach season.

Nearly 52 million people spent time on Los Angeles beaches in 2021, requiring 9,286 rescues by lifeguards.

That’s an average of 61 rescues per day during the 152 days between May 1 and September 30, when people are most likely to be spending time on a Los Angeles beach.

With Southern California’s climate, however, lifeguard services are needed year-round, so 2021’s 9,286 rescues equates to a year-round average of 25 per day.

There are currently 154 full-time lifeguards, plus 650 seasonal lifeguards, covering 72 miles of Southern California beaches, including 31 miles of public beaches centered on the Los Angeles metro area and Catalina Island area in 22 miles from the coast of the city.

In addition to supervising swimmers on beaches, lifeguards also perform boat rescue, underwater rescue and recovery, swift water rescue, cliff rescue, marine mammal rescue and anti-spam rescue. marine fires.

Chief lifeguard Fernando Boiteux, with $463,517, earned the second-highest total compensation among Los Angeles lifeguards in 2021, Open the Books said in a statement.

Third was Section Chief Kenichi Ballew-Hasket with $409,414. The fourth highest was lifeguard James P. Gartland with $386,556 and the fifth highest was lifeguard Patrick O’Neill with $383,032.

Open the Books said only two of the top 20 earners are women, lifeguard captain Virginia Rupe at $307,664 in 16th place and ocean lifesaver specialist Lauren Dale, who received $303,518, good for 19th place. best paid.

Lucrative overtime pay is the main driver of high earnings for Los Angeles lifeguards, Open the Books said, noting that “37 lifeguards worked overtime for amounts between $50,000 and $247,000. For example, Daniel Douglas (overtime: $246,060); James Orr ($146,506); Patrick O’Neil ($133,235); and five others were each over six figures.

“However, over a six-year period, between 2016 and 2021, the Los Angeles lifeguard corps made a fortune in overtime. The top three earners earned between $505,579 and $980,007 in overtime alone: ​​Daniel Douglas ($980,007); Jaro Spopek ($513,365); and James Orr ($505,579).

Open the Books pointed out in its statement that lifeguards in Los Angeles face unusual dangers on the job, but few of those recognized for their heroism are among the highest paid. Only two of the top 20 earners, for example, received the LA Fire Department’s Exemplary Service Award in 2021.

“Some high-earning lifeguards also win awards for their heroism. However, we found that many Valor Award-winning lifeguards failed to make it to the top of the payroll,” Open the Books reported.

“In 2020, Medal of Valor winner Edward ‘Nick’ Macko (salary: $134,144), an ocean lifeguard, jumped into the choppy waters of a remote Palos Verdes gorge and set a man to safety through potentially crushing swells and razor-sharp rocks,” Open the Books said.

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