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How to Become a Police Officer in Kentucky

To be a police officer or sheriff’s deputy in Kentucky means having a rewarding career serving and protecting the people of the Bluegrass State. There are opportunities in local police departments, sheriff’s offices, and with the state police. Known for a rich history, world-famous horses and equally famous bourbon, the state is also a great place to live.

Those working in law enforcement in Kentucky earn an average annual salary of $41,300.1 This salary goes a long way in a state in which the cost of living is 12.4% lower than the average.2 To become a cop or deputy here means meeting the requirements set by the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council, or KLEC. Individual cities and counties may have additional requirements for new recruits.

Kentucky Police Officer Requirements

KLEC sets the minimum requirements in the state of Kentucky for anyone hoping to become a certified peace officer. In addition to the requirements, new recruits must also attend and pass a training course at one of the three police academies in the state. In order to attend an academy, a recruit must first be hired by the Kentucky State Police, a county sheriff’s office, or a local police department. The minimum requirements set by KLEC include:

  • A minimum age of 21
  • US citizenship
  • High school diploma or GED
  • A valid driver’s license
  • A background check and fingerprints on file
  • A clean felony record
  • An oral interview
  • A polygraph examination
  • A drug screening
  • Honorable discharge from any military service
  • A medical and physical fitness test

Kentucky Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The Kentucky State Police (KSP) recruits potential new troopers to help patrol the state highways, assist motorists, and investigate crashes, with opportunities to advance into other departments, such as arson investigation. Kentucky troopers earn a starting salary, after completion of the training academy, of $37,886.3

The process of recruitment begins with a written test and a physical agility test. Those who pass both move onto an interview, background check, and polygraph test. New recruits who pass all the steps may be offered employment and will then attend the training academy. In addition to the KLEC requirements, the KSP recruits must:

  • Have a good moral character
  • Not have more than six points against a driver’s license
  • Have completed 60 college credit hours, served two years as a peace officer, or served two years in the military
  • Have no tattoos visible when in uniform

Kentucky Sheriff Deputy Requirements

To become a sheriff’s deputy in the state of Kentucky, new recruits must apply to the office in the county for which he or she hopes to work. Each county sheriff’s office sets its own hiring procedures and any requirements in addition to those that must be met according to KLEC. Once offered a position as a deputy, the new recruit must complete a police academy.

Jefferson County

Jefferson County, with its county seat in Louisville, is the most populous county in Kentucky and is always in need of qualified candidates for deputies. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office requires the same standards as those set by KLEC and additionally restricts any deputy candidates who have used marijuana in the last three years or another illegal, controlled substance within the last six years.

Fayette County

Fayette County includes the large city of Lexington and is patrolled by the deputies of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. The office accepts applications at any time and sets rigorous standards for incoming recruits. In addition to the KLEC requirements, hopeful new deputies must:

  • Demonstrate a law-abiding lifestyle
  • Not have been convicted of a misdemeanor in the two years prior to applying
  • Not have been convicted of domestic violence
  • Not have used illegal substances or un-prescribed controlled substances in the last two years
  • Not have been fired from a job in the last year
  • Have a good driving record

Police Departments in Kentucky

Kentucky is a diverse state with rolling hills, scenic plains, and mountains. Police departments across the state serve large cities, sparse rural areas, and suburban cities. To work as a cop here means having a lot of choices. The hopeful new law enforcement recruit must apply to individual departments and be offered employment before attending a police academy for training and certification.

Louisville

Louisville is Kentucky’s largest city with a population close to 600,000 and is also one of the oldest American cities west of the Appalachian Mountains. The Louisville Metropolitan Police Department is a large force actively recruiting new officers to patrol the streets, investigate crimes, and protect residents. In addition to the KLEC requirements, new recruits must have completed either 60 college credit hours, have spent four years in the National Guard, have served in the military, or have worked for a year as a sworn police officer. For more information on how to become a police officer in Louisville, check out our How to Become a Police Officer in Louisville page.

Lexington

Known as the “Horse Capital of the World,” Lexington is in the center of the rolling hills of Kentucky’s beautiful horse country. The Lexington Police Department hiring process for hopeful new cops begins with an application and other requirements in addition to the KLEC standards for peace officers. Recruits must not:

  • Be prohibited from possessing a firearm
  • Have been convicted of a misdemeanor within the last year
  • Have used illegal drugs, or medications not prescribed by a doctor, within the last year
  • Have been fired within the last year
  • Have had peace officer certification from another state revoked
  • Have tattoos visible while in uniform

Police Training Academies in Kentucky

All hopeful new recruits to law enforcement in Kentucky must complete a training program at a KLEC-approved police academy in order to become certified as a police officer and to work for a department or sheriff’s office. To attend an academy, new recruits must first be offered employment. There are only three academies in the state:

  • Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice – Richmond, KY
  • Kentucky State Police Training Academy – Frankfort, KY
  • Louisville Police Department Academy – Louisville, KY
  • Kentucky Police Jobs Outlook

    The state of Kentucky is predicted to see impressive growth for cops and deputies over the next several years. Between now and 2022, the number of positions is expected to grow by a whopping 32%, represented by an average of 400 new openings per year.4 Patrol officers and sheriff’s deputies in the state, currently numbered at 6,740, earn an average annual salary of $41,300.1,4

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

    Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Kentucky

    City Number Employed Average Annual Salary
    Bowling Green 210 $37,140
    Lexington-Fayette 1,100 $45,760
    Louisville-Jefferson County 2,170 $44,730

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

    References:
    1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Kentucky: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current//oes_ky.htm#33-0000
    2. Sperling’s Best Places, Kentucky: http://www.bestplaces.net/state/kentucky
    3. Kentucky State Police: http://www.kentuckystatepolice.org/recruit/benefits.html
    4. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm