How to Become a Police Officer in Birmingham
Birmingham, Alabama is one of the largest cities in the South, with a population over 212,000.1 With a low cost of living (28% lower than the national average) and decent salaries for cops, Birmingham can be a fine city to start on the path to a law enforcement career.2 The Birmingham PD employs 912 sworn officers and 325 civilian staff to protect and serve residents of and visitors to the 146 square miles within Birmingham city limits.3 Hopeful recruits for a law enforcement career in Birmingham can learn more about the application, selection process, and the training involved below.
Birmingham Police Officer Requirements
Prospective police officers in Birmingham must meet some basic requirements before being considered for a job in law enforcement. Candidates must:
- Be US citizens and be at least 21 years old at the time of hire
- Hold a GED or high school diploma, and/or an ACT score of 18 or better
- Possess a valid Alabama driver’s license
- Have no felony convictions
- Have good moral character and reputation
- Veterans must have been honorably discharged from the armed services
The first step in joining Birmingham’s law enforcement team is to take a written civil service exam, followed by a physical fitness screening that includes, but is not limited to, tasks such as dragging a 165-pound dummy five yards, running one-and-a-half miles within 15 minutes and 28 seconds, and crawling through a two-feet by two-feet window opening. Then, applicants must take several examinations, including a polygraph, a physical, a psychological screening, and a background investigation before being considered for the force. After passing the examinations and physical testing, accepted recruits will attend the Birmingham Police Academy.
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 now, find specific application information at the Birmingham Police Department’s website.
Birmingham Police Academy
For eight hours a day, five days a week, and for 20 weeks, recruits to Birmingham Police Department will attend classes at the Birmingham Police Academy, where they will learn a variety of subjects. Recruits are paid for their time at the Academy. The academy’s curriculum includes over 920 hours of instruction, 480 of which are required by the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Commission. Subjects include search and seizure, criminal law, patrol procedures, police-community relations and first aid, firearms, defense tactics, and physical fitness. After completing police academy training, new officers will be placed in field training for a minimum of 16 weeks, during which time they are partnered with a Field Training Officer (FTO) in the Patrol Division of the force. After successful completion of the academy and field training, officers will receive their first permanent assignment.
Birmingham Police Department Information
For the 2018 fiscal year, the Birmingham Police Department was granted an annual operating budget of $98 million.4 The BPD has four major bureaus (administrative, support services, field operations, and investigative operations) and four precincts (north, south, east and west), each of which is run by its own captain. Patrol officers work within the field operations division. After earning experience, patrol officers can apply for specialized positions. Within the Investigative Operations Bureau, opportunities include the homicide division, burglary division, pawn shop detail, and major fraud unit.
The BPD is a partner in the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice initiative with the federal Department of Justice. For citizens who would like to know more about the Birmingham Police Department, the city offers a ride-along program for interested citizens to learn more about how the department functions. The BPD also offers volunteer opportunities for members of the community, including an internship program, a chaplain program, city jail ministries, citizens on patrol (COP), and a Citizen’s Police Academy. To join the Citizen’s Police Academy, you must be a US citizen, at least 21 years old, and live and work in the city of Birmingham with no felony convictions. If interested, you can complete an application.
Department Contact Information
Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook
Police officers in Birmingham start with a salary that is based on their highest level of education. Cops with a four-year college degree will start with a salary of $42,286.3 Police officers who have an associate degree (or 64 semester hours) start with a salary of $40,289, and cops with a high school diploma or GED equivalent receive a starting salary of $38,355.3 The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that cops in Birmingham earned an average salary of $49,990 in 2017.5 Other perks for Birmingham cops include educational incentive pay, longevity pay, group medical, dental, and life insurance, and vacation and sick leave. The BPD also offers a 20-year retirement plan, a supplemental pension plan, and deferred compensation after 26 years of service.3
The outlook for cops in Alabama is good. Projections Central estimates that police jobs in the state will grow by 4.9%, or by about 52 jobs each year, through 2026.6 Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith is dedicated to putting more cops on the streets, especially as the department operates with a sworn force that is 104 officers short of its full strength.7 For more information on current Birmingham law enforcement positions, take a look at our jobs board page.
Cities and Police Departments Near Birmingham
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are 3,480 police working in the greater Birmingham area.5 Municipal police and sheriff’s departments around Birmingham serve all types of communities from rural, agricultural towns to satellite metros with large college populations like Tuscaloosa. The following table provides an outline of police employment and crime statistics in Birmingham and the surrounding localities.
|City||Force Name/Abbreviation||City Population8||Police Dept. Total Employees3,9||Sworn Officers3,9||Civilian Staff3,9||Violent Crime Rate per 1,000 People10||Property Crime Rate per 1,000 People10|
|Birmingham||Birmingham Police Department (BPD)||209,880||1,237||912||325||N/A||N/A|
|Hoover||Hoover Police Department (HPD)||85,108||227||165||62||0.07||N/A|
|Trussville||Trussville Police Department (TPD)||22,314||68||55||13||N/A||N/A|
|Tuscaloosa||Tuscaloosa Police Department (TPD)||101,113||352||274||78||0.47||3.7|
- Alabama Peace Officers’ Association – The Alabama Peace Officers Association, established in 1933, seeks to help officers become more effective in their duties through continuing education, community events, and regular publications.
- Alabama State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police – A membership-driven organization, the Alabama State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police supports members of law enforcement by providing financial advice, access to legal services, networking opportunities, and more.
1. Data USA, Birmingham, AL: https://datausa.io/profile/geo/birmingham-al/
2. Sperling’s Best Places: https://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/city/alabama/birmingham
3. Birmingham Police Department: https://police.birminghamal.gov/
4. City of Birmingham 2018 Official Operating Budget: https://www.birminghamal.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/OPERATING-BUDGET.pdf
5. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2017 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Birmingham-Hoover, AL: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_13820.htm
6. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm
7. Al.com, “10 Questions with New Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith,” 28 June 2018: https://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2018/06/birmingham_police_chief_patric.html
8. US Census Bureau, QuickFacts: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045218
9. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Full-time Law Enforcement Employees by State by City: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-26/table-26.xls/view
10. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by State by City: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-6/table-6.xls/view