How to Become a Police Officer in Baltimore
Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland and has the eighth-largest police force in the country, with over 3,000 sworn and civilian personnel serving the city’s population of 614,000.1 The Baltimore Police Department is committed to transparency and the principles of community policing. The department is continually recruiting qualified candidates for its police force and has recently updated its rigorous hiring procedure to increase the proportion of local, minority, and female recruits to more closely match the city’s demographics. The process for becoming a Baltimore police officer is detailed below.
Baltimore Police Officer Requirements
There are several minimum requirements that must be met to be considered for a career in law enforcement with the BPD. It’s important to note that the BPD emphasizes integrity in its officers, and candidates must be completely truthful throughout the hiring process, and their careers, or risk losing their position. To be considered for the recruiting process, candidates must:
- Be a US citizen
- Be at least 20 years and nine months of age by the hire date for becoming a trainee
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Hold a valid driver’s license
- Have a clean driving record with no more than three points and no DUI/DWI convictions within the last five years
- Have an honorable discharge, if a military veteran
- Not have any felony convictions; any misdemeanor convictions must be expunged
- Not have used drugs, including controlled substances, narcotics, or marijuana, within three years of hire
Candidates may begin the process of being considered for a position with the BPD by filling out an application; qualified candidates will be invited to take the civil service test. Those who pass the written test may continue with the physical agility test followed by a preliminary interview. Candidates who qualify at this stage will then undergo a background investigation, a polygraph examination, psychological and medical examinations, and an interview. Accepted candidates will be invited to the police academy as BPD recruits.
For more information about how to become a cop in a typical big city, see 10 Steps to Becoming a Police Officer on our home page. If you are ready to apply, find specific application information on the Baltimore Police Department Recruitment page.
Baltimore County Police Academy
Candidates who make it through the hiring procedure and are offered conditional employment with the BPD complete basic police academy training at the Training Academy of the Baltimore City Police Department. The recruit training gives new cops the skills needed to work as a sworn officer in the city. Courses in the 27-week program include firearm training, animal control, ethics, community relations, and victim’s rights, among many others. After completing basic training, new recruits are assigned to a district and participate in field training for eight weeks. Successful performance in field training leads to a permanent assignment within the BPD.
Baltimore Police Department Information
The BPD is divided into two areas and nine districts. The Western Area includes the Central, Northwestern, Southern, Southwestern, and Western districts and the Eastern Area includes the Eastern, Northeastern, Northern, and Southeastern districts. As you might expect from a big city, the Baltimore Police Department offers many specialized and advancement opportunities for officers who have gained the necessary experience on patrol and are ready to move forward with their careers. Special units within the BPD include the SWAT Division, the K-9 unit, the Mounted Unit, the Aviation Unit, and the Marine Unit, which patrols the city harbor.
The Baltimore Police Department has not been without its share of controversy in recent years. In 2016, an investigation by the US Department of Justice found that the BPD was engaging in a pattern of police practices that violated the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution and was also violating federal anti-discrimination laws.2 As a result of the investigation, the BPD is working to update its policies and reorganize its force; one of the focus areas in these updates is recruitment as the department aims to recruit ideal candidates committed to Constitutional, effective policing.1
Prospective recruits may benefit from attending the department’s new “Fit to Serve” boot camp, which helps prospective officers build the physical fitness and stamina required of new recruits before formally applying to the department while building relationships with current officers.
The BPD is also developing initiatives to include citizens in the work it does to protect the community. Residents of Baltimore can get involved with the department and within their communities by starting an Operation Crime Watch program or Citizens on Patrol (COP) program. The BPD will work with any residents interested in starting or joining one of these crime watch groups in their neighborhoods. The BPD is also establishing community liaisons, regular public meetings with citizens, and soliciting community feedback through survey programs and an updated social media presence.1
Department Contact Information
Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook
New recruits to the BPD earn a starting salary of $50,440 while working as trainees.1 The department offers pay incentives for bachelor’s degrees and frequent opportunities to earn overtime pay.1 After three years of patrol service officers are eligible to take the sergeant’s examination; the starting salary for BPD sergeants is $79,115 per year.1 On average, a police officer in the state of Maryland makes $66,020 per year.3 BPD officers also have access to benefits such as health insurance, generous paid leave, and free equipment, as well as opportunities for advanced training and promotions within the department that can lead to increased salaries. The Baltimore Police Department offers a retirement plan through which officers become eligible to retire after 25 years of service at 60% of their salary; a tax-deferred, supplemental 457B retirement plan is also offered.1
Projections suggest that the number of jobs in law enforcement in the state of Maryland will decrease by 1.1% through 2026.3 However, in the coming years, police employment in Baltimore is expected to increase. A recent report estimated that the BPD is operating with 26.6% fewer patrol officers than necessary, and the department itself estimates that it is short 700 officers from its authorized strength.5,6 Amid the attention towards its recruitment needs, the BPD is now hiring a marketing firm to recruit its ideal candidates through 21st century hiring practices.7 For more information on current BPD law enforcement positions, take a look at our jobs board page.
- Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police: Founded in 1966, the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police is the union bargaining unit for police and flight officers and agents through the lieutenant level in Baltimore.
- Maryland Fraternal Order of Police: The Maryland Fraternal Order of Police is a membership organization representing active and retired police officers throughout the state of Maryland
1. Baltimore Police Department: https://www.baltimorepolice.org/
2. US Department of Justice: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-announces-findings-investigation-baltimore-police-department
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Maryland: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_md.htm#33-0000
4. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
5. The Baltimore Sun, “Amid Recruitment Woes and Unfit Prospects, Baltimore Police Turn to ‘Boot Camp’ to Train Officers,” 17 Sept. 2018: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-ci-police-recruiting-20180912-story.html
6. The Baltimore Sun, “As Many as 42 Percent of Baltimore Police Officers on Patrol Last Month Were Working Overtime,” 7 June 2018: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-ci-police-overtime-records-20180606-story.html
7. The Baltimore Sun, “Baltimore Is Seeking Millennial, Minority and Local Police Recruits — and a Marketing Firm to Attract Them,” 1 Aug. 2018: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-bpd-recruitment-campaign-20180731-story.html