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How to Become a Police Officer in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is a growing state with a population of just over one million.1 Aspiring cops in Rhode Island will enjoy the state’s miles of beaches, historic landmarks, and an average annual salary of $56,210.2 Rhode Island has a 21% higher cost of living when compared to the national average, but career advancement may outweigh this cost.3

Criteria for becoming a law enforcement officer in Rhode Island may vary across municipalities, but there are some basic requirements that will apply to all potential officers. This guide will provide an overview of those prerequisites in addition to more specific requirements for sheriff’s deputies, state patrol, and a few local police departments in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Police Officer Requirements

There are nearly 2,000 police officers and sheriff’s deputies in Rhode Island.2 The Rhode Island Police Officers Commission on Standards and Training (POST) establishes all rules and regulations to train, certify, and decertify officers in the state. Rhode Island POST develops the physical standards and determines the personal character desired for law enforcement candidates in the state.

Men and women who want to start their careers in law enforcement in Rhode Island must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be a US citizen
  • Be a resident of Rhode Island with a valid driver’s license
  • Have an associate degree, two years of active military duty, or four years of reserve military duty
  • Have visual acuity of 20/30 (corrected) and auditory acuity of 20 feet without a hearing aid
  • Meet Rhode Island’s physical fitness requirements

Required Examinations

Similar to the screening process in other states, future cops in Rhode Island have to pass a psychological exam and a physical fitness assessment. Aspiring officers must have medical clearance from a state-certified physician prior to starting the basic training academy.

Rhode Island State Patrol Requirements

The Rhode Island State Police (RISP) employs over 220 sworn officers and over 50 civilians.3 Specialized units of RISP include the marine/dive unit, honor guard unit, financial crimes unit, computer crimes unit, major/organized crime unit, game enforcement unit, and narcotics/high intensity drug trafficking areas unit.

To become a Rhode Island State Police Trooper, applicants must:

  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be between the ages of 18 and 35
  • Be a US citizen
  • Possess a valid driver’s license
  • Have visual acuity of 20/40 (binocular vision, uncorrected), 20/20 visual acuity (corrected), normal color and depth perception, and normal hearing
  • Have no visible tattoos while in uniform or not in uniform (if on duty)

Rhode Island Sheriff Deputy Requirements

The Rhode Island Division of Sheriffs was founded in 1663 and consolidated in 2011 with the Rhode Island Department of Public Safety. The division handles courtroom security, personnel training, extradition, and criminal transport. The starting annual salary for Rhode Island sheriff’s deputies is $42,883.5

To become a deputy sheriff in Rhode Island, applicants must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Possess a valid driver’s license
  • Be a US citizen
  • Pass the physical fitness test
  • Have no visible tattoos when wearing the division uniform

In addition to having a high school diploma or GED, applicants must have one of the following:

  • An associate degree or higher (or 60 college credits) in law enforcement or criminal justice from an accredited college or university OR
  • Two years of active military service OR
  • Two or more years of full-time law enforcement experience, including being responsible for arresting and detaining individuals in violation of the law OR
  • Three years of full-time employment as a correctional officer OR
  • Four years of national guard, coast guard, or military reserve service OR
  • Successfully completed the state’s municipal police academy, state police, providence police or comparable certified program offered by another public law enforcement agency
“Military, EMS, volunteer firefighter experience may prove to be a significant asset that can set you apart from the field of other applicants. Military service may also help by adding points to Civil Services tests if you qualify.” – Thomas Gerace, police lieutenant

Upon completing the basic training academy, Rhode Island sheriff’s deputies will begin a six-month probationary period.

Police Departments in Rhode Island

Nearly 2,000 cops work in police departments in Rhode Island’s cities and towns, earning an average salary of $56,210 annually.2 While all cops must meet the minimum requirements set forth by the Rhode Island POST board, each police department may have different criteria that prospective officers must meet.

Providence

The Providence Police Department (PPD) has been in existence since the Revolutionary War in 1775.5 It’s the second largest law enforcement agency in New England and employs 442 sworn officers, about two officers for every 1,000 people.5 The PPD has three divisions: the administrative division, the investigative division, and the uniform division.

To join the PPD, recruits must:

  • Be a US citizen or a permanent resident alien who is eligible and has applied for US citizenship
  • Be at least 21 years of age upon completion of the academy
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Have no misdemeanors within the past five years and no felony or domestic violence convictions
  • Possess a valid driver’s license
  • Have been honorably discharged from the military service
  • Pass a background investigation and a written, psychological, and physical exam

Warwick

The Warwick Police Department (WPD) is responsible for the public safety of the city of Warwick’s population of 81,000.6 Cops at WPD can work in the following units or divisions:

  • Uniform patrol division
  • Community services platoon
  • Homeland security unit
  • Detective division
  • Administrative services division
  • Professional standards division
  • Prosecution division
  • Animal control division

Individuals who want to join the WPD must have a high school diploma or GED and one of the following:

  • a minimum of 60 credit hours or an associate degree from an accredited college or university OR
  • three years of full-time public law enforcement experience OR
  • three years of continuous military service OR
  • five years of continuous reserve military service
“Never forget that the citizens you serve are your customers, from one call to the next you will encounter citizens who may welcome you and thank you for your assistance, disrespect you and dislike you because of your profession and in some cases try to hurt you. You must balance each of these encounters and manage them professionally and morally. I make sure that I can face myself in the mirror at the beginning and end of each day.” -Tom Reiner, police lieutenant in Georgia

Police Training Academies in Rhode Island

There are two basic training academies in Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Municipal Police Training Academy located (RIMPA) in Lincoln, Rhode Island provides basic training for all cops in the state. RIMPA trains approximately 100 recruits per year in their 22-week training academy.7 Rhode Island State Police Training Academy in North Scituate provides a 22-week basic training for state police only. Recruits learn about a variety of topics, some of which include criminal law, patrol operations, community policing, report writing, fair and impartial policing, basic water rescue, and fair and impartial policing.

Rhode Island Police Jobs Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are currently 1,950 cops in Rhode Island.2 The average annual salary for Rhode Island law enforcement is $56,210.2 It is projected that by 2022, that workforce will decrease by 3.5%.8 Although the number of police officers is projected to decrease, there may still be career opportunities for hopeful cops due to scheduled retirements, job promotions, and the city’s need for patrol officers.

To search law enforcement jobs in Rhode Island, check out our Police Jobs Board.

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Rhode Island

City Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Providence-Fall River-Warwick 2,410 $56,560
Norwich-New London 510 $61,540

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

References:
1. US Census Bureau, Rhode Island: http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045216/44
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State and Occupational Employment and Wages Estimates, Rhode Island: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ri.htm
3. Sperling’s Best Places, Rhode Island: http://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/state/rhode_island
4. Rhode Island Department of Public Safety, Rhode Island State Police: http://dps.ri.gov/
5. State of Rhode Island Division of Sheriffs: http://sheriffs.ri.gov/recruitment/index.php
6. Providence Police Department: https://www.providenceri.com/police
7. US Census Bureau, Warwick, Rhode Island: http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045216/4474300
8. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm