How to Become a Police Officer in Boston
The Boston police force is one of the oldest in the nation and has a history stretching back to 1631, although the Boston Police Department was not officially commissioned until 1838. Today, the Boston Police Department states that its mission is community policing, with a strong emphasis on working in partnership with the community to achieve crime reduction and improve the quality of life for Boston’s estimated 672,840 residents.1,2 In 2010, the most recent year for which the BPD issued an annual report on its activities, there were 2,090 sworn officers and 787 civilian personnel working for the department.1 If you’re interested in a career as a Boston police officer, we have outlined the process below to help you get started.
Boston Police Officer Requirements
For aspiring recruits looking to become Boston police officers, there are many strict requirements that must be met to be eligible to work for the BPD. The requirements begin before candidates submit an application, as certain benchmarks must be met to be considered. In order to become a Boston police officer, a candidate must:
- Be a US citizen
- Be at least 21 years old
- Have a high school diploma or GED equivalency
- Have had Boston residency for at least one year
- Be eligible for a firearms license in the state of Massachusetts
- Not have a criminal history that includes a felony charge or charges related to drug use
- Have an honorable discharge, if an armed forces veteran
For those who meet these qualifications, the first step to becoming a Boston police officer is to pass the Massachusetts State Civil Service Exam. This exam is only offered every two years, and prospective recruits must have earned a passing score to be eligible to apply for sworn officer positions with the BPD. Candidates must next achieve a passing score on the written police exam. Like any major city’s police force, the Boston Police Department also requires that prospective officers undergo a number of physical, mental, and psychological examinations. During the recruitment process, all candidates must complete an extensive background check, which frequently includes a polygraph exam. Those who succeed in the screening and interview process will be eligible to join an upcoming class as recruits in the Boston Police Academy.
For more information on the process to become a cop in a typical metro area, see 10 Steps to Becoming a Police Officer on our homepage.
Boston Police Academy
The Boston Training Center is organized and operated by the Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC). The MPTC is responsible for establishing minimum training and education standards for becoming a police officer for the city of Boston and other cities within the state of Massachusetts. The Recruit Officer Course is a comprehensive 29-week training program that includes classroom instruction, tactical exercises, and real-world scenarios designed to teach new recruits the abilities needed to excel in the Boston police force.
Boston Police Department Information
The city’s police department is overseen by the police commissioner and is divided into 12 districts and eight bureaus. The city’s community policing mission is largely undertaken by the patrol officers within the Bureau of Field Services, which also has primary responsibility for tactical services and joint operations. Within the Bureau of Field Services, the Boston Police Special Operations Division is made up of various multi-disciplinary units including highway patrol and traffic enforcement, crowd control, special weapons services, and SWAT tactics services. The related Bureau of Investigative Services oversees investigations across bureaus citywide, and includes the Investigative Planning Unit, the Major Case Division, and the Criminal Investigation Division (which includes the Homicide, Fugitive, and Forensic units), as well as the Civil Rights Unit.
In 2015, the Boston Police Department was found to be encouraging racially discriminatory stop-and-frisk practices, for which the department continues to be criticized.3,4 However, the BPD maintains that the statistics are misleading as they include investigations that target repeat offenders, gang members, and other groups that may skew the data.4 In response to the criticism, the BPD has implemented training on racial profiling and bias, while prohibiting police practices based on race and gender.4
To encourage community involvement in keeping Boston neighborhoods safe, the BPD promotes a number of community-based partnerships. These include neighborhood advisory councils for each police district, participation in the Operation Ceasefire program, Safe Street Teams consisting of uniformed officers that walk their beats in high-crime areas, and the Street Outreach Team. Through these innovative programs, the BPD tries to curb violence and encourage communities to take part in preventing crime.
Additionally, the Boston Police Department offers internships throughout the city. These internships are typically not paid positions but can provide enriching experiences for residents. For more information and to apply, visit the City of Boston’s internships page.
Department Contact Information:
Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook
The Boston Police Department recruits qualified applicants on an as-needed basis. The starting pay for a new recruit may vary depending on experience and education. The starting salary for sworn officers is $30,575 per year.5 The average annual salary of a Boston metro area patrol officers is $70,400.6 The Boston Police Department offers opportunities to increase base salary commensurate with other major PDs, including overtime pay and education incentives. The BPD participates in the city of Boston’s municipal employee benefits programs, which include group health and life insurance, sick leave, pre-tax public transportation deductions, and in some cases, tuition reimbursement, as well as paid time off and a retirement plan.
Police employment in the state of Massachusetts overall is expected to increase 5.2% through 2026.7 For more information on current Boston law enforcement positions, take a look at our state job board page.
Cities and Police Departments Near Boston
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Boston-Cambridge-Nashua metro area has about 11,760 police and sheriff’s patrol officers.6 Boston is the largest police department in this area, but prospective officers can find employment in numerous smaller departments that offer a variety of career opportunities and living amenities. The table below compares police department employment and crime rates for several cities in the Boston area.
|Police Dept. Total Employees9
|Violent Crime Rate per 1,000 People10
|Property Crime Rate per 1,000 People10
|Boston Police Department (BPD)
|Cambridge Police Department (CPD)
|Medford Police Department (MPD)
|Newton Police Department (NPD)
- Massachusetts Fraternal Order of Police: The Massachusetts Fraternal Order of Police is a professional organization that offers member officers insurance help, mortgage assistance, and other benefits.
- New England Association of Police Chiefs: This member-driven organization promotes professional development for police officers, with a special focus on management and leadership.
1. Boston Police Department: https://bpdnews.com/
2. Data USA, Boston, MA: https://datausa.io/profile/geo/boston-ma/
3. ACLU Massachusetts: https://www.aclum.org/en/ending-racist-stop-and-frisk
4. The Boston Globe, “Blacks Remain Focus of Boston Police Investigations, Searches,” 28 Aug. 2017: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/08/28/blacks-remain-focus-boston-police-investigations-searches/PDbFr2QZexCEi3zJTO9mOJ/story.html
5. City of Boston Municipal Government, Salary Plans at the City: https://www.boston.gov/departments/human-resources/salary-information-city-boston-jobs
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2017 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_71650.htm
7. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm
8. US Census Bureau, QuickFacts: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045221
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