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How to Become a Police Officer in Colorado

The state of Colorado currently employs almost 10,000 sworn police and sheriff patrol officers to protect and serve the state’s large population of over 5 million.1 Having such a large police presence means that aspiring police and sheriff officers looking to enter Colorado law enforcement have a world of career opportunities.

To become a police officer in Colorado, candidates must meet a number of requirements. While the state has an established list of standard criteria, keep in mind that many local police and sheriff departments have additional hiring prerequisites in addition to the ones set by the state. And although it may not be an official requirement, it’s quite common that someone with an associate’s degree or some type of criminal justice degree is favorably considered for law enforcement employment over those with the basic state minimums.

Colorado Police Officer Requirements

The Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (POST) is responsible for the training and certification procedures of the state’s law enforcement personnel. The certification process is highly selective to ensure that the Colorado cops are thoroughly prepared to serve the public in the most professional manner possible.

The requirements for becoming a police officer in Colorado are fairly similar to other states in terms of background and education. Colorado requires that all candidates hold a US high school diploma or GED certificate. However, it’s increasingly common for local police departments to require some college degree, preferably in criminal justice.

The Colorado POST minimum requirements state that candidates must:

  • Hold a US high school diploma or an equivalent GED
  • Be 21 years of age by date of hire
  • Have up-to-date first aid and CPR certificates or equivalents
  • Complete a POST-approved basic police training program
  • Submit to an extensive background check, including fingerprint cards
  • Pass a POST certification exam
  • Pass a physical examination by a licensed physician regarding fitness levels
  • Pass a psychological examination by a licensed psychiatrist

For more information on misdemeanor charges that may also disqualify candidates, visit the Colorado POST website.

“Be impeccable. Remember that everything you say and do is a reflection of who you are. Now that I’m in management, I look for officers who are strong in character – we can teach the skills necessary to do the job but it’s more challenging to find those who are there for the right reasons. If you are planning on entering the field of law enforcement, be sure you understand that you WILL be held to a higher standard. This is not unjust, but a necessary fact. Those who are chosen to uphold the constitution and must do so with responsibility and that means they must live their lives as an example.” – Kristen Ziman, Commander with the Aurora Police Department

Colorado Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The Colorado State Patrol was established in 1935 and today boasts 742 sworn officers and civilian staff.2 The current chief of the Colorado Patrol department is Colonel Scott Hernandez, a 26-year veteran of the Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Port of Entry.

For anyone looking to work as a Colorado state trooper, there are quite a few requirements to meet. Similar to becoming a police officer in the state, aspiring troopers must be at least 21 years old by the time of hire and must hold a high school diploma or GED. Like most public service positions in Colorado, any candidate with a college degree in a criminal justice field will most likely be favorably viewed.

Those applying for employment do not have to be US citizens. However, applicants must have official documentation (Form I-9) from the Department of Homeland Security, US Citizenship and Immigration Services showing that they have permission to live and work in the US. All applicants, regardless of nationality, must submit to an extensive background investigation and pre-employment polygraph, multiple physical fitness tests and psychological examinations.

Colorado Sheriff Deputy Requirements

Colorado is divided into 64 counties, each with an elected sheriff. The process for becoming a sheriff duty is fairly similar to the requirements to become a Colorado police officer. In addition to meeting the general set age and nationality requirements, certain prerequisites like education and testing may differ from county to county.

Denver

The Denver Sheriff’s Department is the largest sheriff’s department agency in the state of Colorado and relies on 1,525 full-time sworn personnel to protect and serve the Denver area.2 The current Sheriff is Patrick Firman.

For anyone who would like to work as a Denver sheriff or sheriff deputy, the department requires that all new candidates must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma or a GED certificate
  • Be a United States citizen
  • Possess a valid Colorado driver’s license
  • Pass written, physical and medical exam
  • Submit to a psychological exam and attend an integrity interview
  • Submit to an extensive background check and polygraph

El Paso

El Paso County is the state’s most populous county with over 600,000 citizens. The current El Paso Sheriff is Terry Maketa, who oversees the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department’s 454 sworn officers who serve the county.2 For anyone looking to work as a sheriff deputy in El Paso, the sheriff department requires that candidates must:

  • Be 21 years of age
  • Be a high school graduate or equivalent
  • Be a US citizen
  • Possess a Colorado driver’s license
  • Be financially responsible
  • Be in good health
  • Have correctable 20/20 eyesight
  • Have proper weight in proportion to height

Police Departments in Colorado

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Colorado currently employs 9,440 sworn police and sheriff patrol officers in order to protect and serve the state’s large population of over five million.1

All law enforcement officers around the state must meet the requirements as stipulated by the Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. In most cases, the individual departments have their own set of requirements for employment.

Denver

Currently, the largest police force in Colorado is a Denver’s Police Force (with over 1,400 sworn officers) and operates under the direction of Chief Robert C. White.4 The hiring process to become a Denver cop is overseen by the Denver Civil Service Commission. The requirements state that all candidates must be US citizens and 21 years old by the time of applying. For educational requirements, applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate. Additionally, all applicants must pass a number of written and physical examinations and complete a training process. All applicants for Police Officer must be eligible for POST Certification.

For more information on the Denver Police Department, take a look at our in-depth guide on How to Become a Police Officer in Denver.

Colorado Springs

The Colorado Springs Police Department has 674 police and sheriff patrol officers that work under the command of Chief Peter Carey.3 According to the department’s website, the department is no longer accepting applications for the 2015 training academy.5 Like most local departments, requirements to become a Colorado Springs police officer states that all applicants must be at least 21 years of age and a US citizen or have official permission to live and work in the US. Anyone who has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence is automatically disqualified.

For educational requirements, applicants are required to have an associate’s degree of 60 college semester hours from an accredited institution. If a candidate is in the process of obtaining an associate’s degree at the time of application, candidates must submit a statement from their school confirming that they are currently enrolled in a course of study that will allow the candidate to meet the minimum qualifications upon the date of hire. For additional information on the CSPD, read our How to Become a Police Officer in Colorado Springs page.

“Do some introspection and consider why you want to be a police officer. If it’s more about social status, power and feeling good about yourself than other reasons you should reconsider. If it’s entirely about pay, retirement and just having a job you may want to reconsider. Not to say that those elements in and of themselves are BAD (we all have assortments of them in our reasoning) but if you don’t feel as if LE is a ‘calling’ then you will probably not advance in the field as far as you could.”

Police Training Academies in Colorado

Candidates who have met all of the requirements and passed all of the exams must attend and complete training at one of Colorado’s 19 Post Basic Training Academies. Colorado also requires candidates to hold a first aid and CPR certificate before they take the certification examination.

Colorado POST Basic Training Academies:

  • Adams County Sheriff’s Academy – Brighton, CO
  • Aurora Police Training Academy – Aurora, CO
  • Colorado Springs PD Training Academy – Colorado Springs, CO
  • Colorado State Patrol Basic Training Academy – Golden, CO
  • Denver Police Academy – Denver, CO

For a complete list of Colorado POST accredited training academies, consult the POST website.

Colorado Police Jobs Outlook

For anyone considering applying for a Colorado law enforcement position, the future looks relatively positive. According to the BLS, the average annual wage for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Colorado in was $64,680 in May 2014.1 The state’s growth for officers is projected to grow by 9.1% through 2022.6

As far as projected job openings over the next ten years, the annual average number of employment openings is estimated to reach 380 within the same 10-year period.6 Replacement hirings are expected to rise significantly due to the large number of baby boomer police veterans who will be retiring over the next five to ten years. Additionally, employment and recruitment cycles tend to coincide with allocated state budgets.

For more information current law enforcement openings, take a look at our Police Jobs Page.

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Colorado

City Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Boulder 650 $68,430
Colorado Springs 1,000 $63,250
Denver-Aurora-Broomfield 4,580 $70,530

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.

References:
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Colorado: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_co.htm
2. US Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, 2008: https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/csllea08.pdf
3. Police Chief Magazine: http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/
4. Denver Police Department Annual Report, 2013: https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/police-department/about-us/annual-reports.html
5. Colorado Springs Police Department: https://cspd.coloradosprings.gov/content/work-cspd
6. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm