How to Become a Police Officer in Columbus
Columbus is the capital city of Ohio and has a population of over 862,000 people.1 With a cost of living that is nearly 16% lower than the national average, Columbus can be a great city for law enforcement officers to call home.2 The Columbus Division of Police consists of more than 1,800 sworn officers and 300 civilian support staff.3 The department’s vision is to provide trustworthy, diverse, progressive, and community-minded public service. One sign of the department’s success is Columbus’ violent crime rate, which is lower than the national average.4 To learn more about the application, selection and training process for the Columbus Police Division continue reading below.
Columbus Police Officer Requirements
The Columbus Police Department (CPD) selection process is highly competitive. The department offers programs designed to help candidates succeed in the process, including Police Applicant Study Skills (PASS) study sessions. To join the CPD, candidates must:
- Be a US citizen
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Possess a valid driver’s license
- Have no visible piercings (ears are acceptable) or tattoos on the head, neck, or hands
- Have no felony convictions or domestic violence convictions within the past 10 years
- Not have tried or purchased marijuana in the past 12 months, or any other illegal drugs in the last three years
- Not have any OVI, DUI, or OMVI convictions within the last five years
For a full list of automatic disqualifiers and more information on minimum requirements, click here. Candidates who qualify must first formally apply to the department. Next, potential law enforcement officers must pass the Entry Level Police Officer multiple choice exam, submit a writing sample, take the Columbus Oral Police Exam (COPE), and pass a physical fitness test. Candidates must also undergo a background investigation, polygraph exam, and a medical evaluation. Next, hopeful law enforcement officers must be interviewed by an oral review board. Those who make it through this process will be placed in an upcoming recruit training academy.
For additional information about becoming a law enforcement officer in a big city, see 10 Steps to Becoming a Police Officer on our home page.
Chief James G. Jackson Columbus Police Academy and Regional Training Center
CPD recruits are trained at the Chief James G. Jackson Columbus Police Academy and Regional Training Center in Columbus. Recruits attend over 1,000 hours of basic training at the academy. For six months, recruits train in topics including defensive tactics, patrol operations, law, legal procedures, criminal investigation and firearms, physical training, human relations, and applied behavioral science.3 Upon completion of academy training, recruits must complete 15 weeks of field training.
Columbus Police Department Information
The CPD has six subdivisions: the investigative bureau, the administration bureau, homeland security bureau, patrol south, patrol north, and support services bureau. The CPD is separated into five zones and has 20 precincts within each zone.3 After serving time in patrol, future law enforcement officers can join one of the CPD’s specialized teams which include crisis intervention, community response, hostage negotiators, and the SWAT team.
Columbus residents can get involved in the Citizen Police Academy, offered in Spanish and English. The Citizen Police Academy is nine weeks and covers CPD’s community policing philosophy and gives citizens more information about the operation of the police department. The Columbus Police Explorers is a program for youth from ages 14 to 18. Explorers also learn about daily police work and compete in national conferences. There are many other opportunities for community involvement.
CPD has a ride-along program available for adults and a Police Explorers programs to encourage community involvement. To schedule a ride-along, contact the Columbus Police Patrol Administration at 614-645-4580 or complete the ride-along form.
Department Contact Information
Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook
The Columbus Police Division (CPD) offers a competitive salary and benefits package. The annual salary for new recruits starts at $53,934 and increases to $82,576 after four years on the job.3 Additional promotional pay increases and other pay incentives such as overtime are available. Officer benefits include tuition reimbursement after one year of service, paid life insurance, low-cost health insurance, and generous paid leave. 3 Retirement benefits are administered through the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund.
There are 4,750 law enforcement officers employed in the Columbus metro area, earning an annual average salary of $70,330.5 By 2026, it is projected that the number of cops in Ohio will increase by 2.5%, resulting in an additional 630 job openings.6 The number of new cops hired by the Columbus Police Division is largely dependent on the city’s budget and the number of retirements and resignations.
To view open listings for police officers in Columbus, visit our jobs board page.
Cities and Police Departments Near Columbus
With nearly one million residents and over 1,800 police officers, Columbus has the largest police force in its local geographical area.3,8 Across the Columbus metro, there are an estimated 4,610 police and sheriff’s patrol officers, indicating that the surrounding suburbs and rural areas offer plentiful employment opportunities for aspiring police.5 The table below describes police employment and crime rates for a few of these communities.
|Police Dept. Total Employees3,8
|Violent Crime Rate per 1,000 People9
|Property Crime Rate per 1,000 People9
|Columbus Division of Police (CDP)
|Delaware Police Department (DPD)
|Grove City Police Department (GCPD)
|Mansfield Police Department (MPD)
|Springfield Police Department (SPD)
|Westerville Police Department (WPD)
- Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio: Founded in 1924, the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio advocates for police benefits, recognition, and workplace safety.
- The Emerald Society of Columbus: This membership-based organization is a non-political, socially-focused group made up of Ohio police officers and firefighters with Irish heritage.
1. Data USA, Columbus, OH: https://datausa.io/profile/geo/columbus-oh/
2. Sperling’s Best Places, Columbus, Ohio: https://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/city/ohio/columbus
3. Columbus Division of Police: https://new.columbus.gov/Services/Public-Safety/Police
4. US News & World Report, Best Place to Live, Columbus, OH: https://realestate.usnews.com/places/ohio/columbus/crime
5. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Columbus, Ohio: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_18140.htm
6. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm
7. US Census Bureau, QuickFacts: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045221
8. 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
9. 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