What Is Law Enforcement Availability Pay?

Definition & Examples of Law Enforcement Availability Pay

Agent for the FBI removes boxes of equipment from a building

 Scott Olson / Getty Images 

Law enforcement availability pay (LEAP) is a special pay premium for certain federal law enforcement officers. It compensates them for the amount of unscheduled duty that accompanies this field of work.

Find out more about who is eligible for law enforcement availability pay and how it works.

What Is Law Enforcement Availability Pay?

Law enforcement availability pay is the additional compensation the government pays to federal law enforcement agents who are criminal investigators, or special agents. This compensation is paid out on top of the base salary and makes up a significant supplement to an agent's income.

Availability pay compensates the officers and agents for the unscheduled work time they put in as well as the time they must reserve to be available to the agency, even if they aren't working. It is separate from scheduled overtime.

  • Acronym: LEAP

How Does Law Enforcement Availability Pay Work?

Federal agents receive law enforcement availability pay in recognition of their work schedule, which requires working 50 hours a week or more, sometimes at irregular hours. Special agents also may be required to be on call 24 hours a day.

LEAP ensures agents are available and provides payment for the extra work they will perform. The law sets availability pay at 25% of the officer's rate of basic pay.

Criminal investigators who receive availability pay are not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act provisions on overtime pay.

The availability pay is provided to cover the first two hours of overtime each day worked.

There's one caveat: LEAP and other payments cannot exceed the maximum bi-weekly payment within a given pay step.

How to Get Law Enforcement Availability Pay

Not everyone who works in federal law enforcement is eligible to receive LEAP. Only criminal investigators with the proper job classification are eligible. They must be classified in either GS-1811 (Criminal Investigations) in the Federal Civil Service System, or GS-1812 (Game Law Enforcement) series.

Uniformed law enforcement officers such as the FBI Police and Uniformed Secret Service Officers don't qualify for LEAP, because they have a different job classification.

Pilots who work for the U.S. Customs Service and special agents in the Diplomatic Security Service are also eligible for LEAP if they meet the definition of law enforcement officer laid out in the United States Code and Code of Federal Regulations. LEAP is optional in Offices of Inspectors General that employ four or fewer investigators.

In addition to having the proper job classification, federal agents must work an average of two hours extra per workday. Essentially, an agent's average workweek must be at least 50 hours, as opposed to 40 hours, to qualify.

Agents who qualify for LEAP include:

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents
  • Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agents
  • Department of Defense special agents
  • Drug Enforcement Administration agents
  • Diplomatic Security agents 
  • Customs agents
  • Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation agents
  • U.S. Deputy Marshals
  • Secret Service agents
  • Air Force special agents
  • U.S. Postal Inspectors

Agents must verify they worked an average of two extra hours per day during the past year and that they anticipate working those hours again next year. This is called the substantial hours requirement, and the officer and supervisor must certify this annually.

Benefits of Law Enforcement Availability Pay

For the agent, the obvious benefit of the LEAP program is the extra money earned on top of the base salary. Professionals in nearly every industry will tell you they work more than 40 hours in a week; for agents, it's a perk to get compensated for it.

For the federal government, law enforcement availability pay actually may save money. The long hours agents often must work to see a case through could lead to massive overtime payments. Agents who receive LEAP, however, are ineligible for other forms of overtime pay.

Whether they work a 60-hour week or a 40-hour week, they'll receive the same pay. In this way, overtime is compensated, but it is also budgeted for so that there are far fewer unanticipated expenses.

Key Takeaways

  • Law enforcement availability pay is a premium that compensates federal criminal investigators for the amount of unscheduled duty they may be required to work.
  • Federal law enforcement officers who receive LEAP are expected to be available to work based on the needs of the agency.
  • LEAP ensures they are available and compensated for working or being available to work more than eight hours per workday.