How to Become a Police Officer in West Virginia
West Virginia is in the heart of coal mining country, but this state full of natural beauty has so much more to offer. Straddling the boundary between north and south, West Virginia has a unique culture and draws in tourists for historic sites, white water rafting, and traditional bluegrass music. Residents love their state and it can be a great place to relocate with a cost of living that is 13.9% lower than the national average.1 With such a low cost of living, the 3,370 cops and sheriff’s deputies working in West Virginia today enjoy a great way of life.2
West Virginia Police Officer Requirements
West Virginia’s Division of Justice and Community Services includes the Law Enforcement Professional Standards (LEPS) Program, which is tasked with overseeing training and certification for all law enforcement officers in the state. LEPS runs the state’s only official police academy and sets the minimum requirements for admission and to be certified. These are:
- A completed application packet within 90 days of being hired by an agency
- A medical examination
- Adequate physical fitness, as determined by performing in the 40th percentile on a standard fitness exam
- Completion of a background check
- No felony convictions
- No drug addictions
West Virginia Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements
The West Virginia State Police (WVSP) is the fourth oldest state policing agency in the country and was founded in 1919.3 In order to be considered for a position as a WVSP trooper, new recruits must meet the state standards as well as these additional requirements:
- Be at least 21 years old, but no older than 39
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Have a valid driver’s license for two years before applying
- Have no domestic violence convictions
New recruits submitting an application and meeting the requirements must pass a written test, a fitness test, and psychological and medical testing before being selected and admitted to cadet training.
West Virginia Sheriff Deputy Requirements
All counties in West Virginia have a sheriff’s department or office responsible for overseeing several aspects of law enforcement within the county. These offices are staffed by deputies who take on several roles including prisoner guarding and transport, road patrolling, and criminal investigations, among many others. To become a deputy, a candidate must apply to a sheriff’s office and follow the correct procedures before being offered a position and attending the West Virginia State Police Academy.
Kanawha County is West Virginia’s most populous county and includes a sizable staff of deputies at the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office. The county seat is Charleston, both the largest city in the state and the state capital. New recruits must meet the LEPS standards and then proceed through a series of written, fitness, medical, psychological, and polygraph exams, as well as a background check and an interview before being considered for a position.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department serves more than 50,000 residents of this county in the eastern panhandle of the state. Deputies working in this department are responsible for all areas of law enforcement, from patrolling to making arrests to transporting prisoners. Potential candidates for a Jefferson County deputy must:
- Pass a written test
- Have vision correctable to 20/20
- Have no hearing deficiencies
- Have a valid driver’s license
- Be a US citizen
Once these basic requirements are met, new recruits must pass a physical fitness test, a background check, a polygraph test, and medical and psychological examinations.
Police Departments in West Virginia
From the larger cities of Charleston and Huntington to the rural villages of the Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia is a diverse state with a wide range of police departments. Hopeful new cops wanting to work for any of these agencies must go through an individual department’s hiring procedure before being considered for a position. Once hired, the new officer has 90 days to apply for training at the West Virginia State Police Academy.
Charleston is the capital of West Virginia and is also the largest city. The Charleston Police Department (CPD) recruits dedicated and qualified individuals to become officers in the force. The CPD requires that applicants have a high school diploma or GED and pass a written and a physical fitness test before being considered for further screening. Those hired go on to train at the state academy, but then must also complete CPD field training.
Huntington, with a population of about 50,000, is West Virginia’s second largest city. The police force includes 111 sworn officers and a handful of civilian employees.4 The Huntington Police Department requires that new recruits be US citizens, have a high school diploma or GED, pass a written test and pass a physical fitness test. After meeting these requirements, potential candidates are then subjected to medical, psychological, and polygraph examinations, as well as a background check and an oral interview.
Police Training Academies in West Virginia
There is only one official academy in West Virginia, the West Virginia State Police Academy, located in Dunbar. All new recruits hired by any law enforcement agency in the state must attend basic training here in order to be certified as a peace officer. Individual agencies may also require further training for their new hires. The Academy includes live-in training and all cadets must achieve a passing grade of at least 75% to be certified.
West Virginia Police Jobs Outlook
The number of positions for police patrol officers and sheriff’s deputies are expected to grow over the coming years. Between now and 2022, projections suggest that an average of 25 new and replacement positions will be available each year.5 The growth is significant considering the relatively small population in the state. The average salary for law enforcement options in West Virginia is $39,160.2
For more information about current law enforcement openings, take a look at our Police Jobs page.
Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in West Virginia
|City||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.
1. Sperling’s Best Places, West Virginia: http://www.bestplaces.net/state/west_virginia
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, West Virginia: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wv.htm#33-0000
3. West Virginia State Police: http://www.wvsp.gov/pages/colonel.aspx
4. Huntington Police Department: http://www.hpdwv.com/
5. Workforce West Virginia, Economic and Labor Market Information: http://lmi.workforcewv.org/