How to Become a Police Officer in Los Angeles
Los Angeles has one of the most visible and well-known police forces in the nation. With nearly 10,000 officers and almost 3,000 civilian employees, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is the third-largest law enforcement agency in the US.1 The LAPD provides police services across the approximately 468 square miles within Los Angeles city limits, an area that is home to roughly 4 million residents.1 Unfortunately, according to LAPD estimates, the same area is also home to approximately 450 gangs and 45,000 gang members, a statistic that contributes to the city’s higher-than-average crime rates.1,2 The steps to become a Los Angeles police officer are listed below in detail.
Los Angeles Police Officer Requirements
Like most cities, Los Angeles looks for the most qualified candidates for recruitment into the city’s police department. Anyone looking to become a police officer in Los Angeles must meet a number of requirements. To be eligible for hire, prospective cops must:
- Be a US citizen or permanent resident alien who has applied for citizenship
- Be 21 or older at the time of hire
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Meet the department’s personal standards, including honesty and integrity
- Not have any felony convictions or disqualifying misdemeanors
The process to become a Los Angeles cop begins with submitting an application. This includes a job preview questionnaire and a personal qualifications essay; in both steps, applicants should take care to describe how their past education and experience prepares them for police work. Next, candidates take a physical fitness exam. Passing applicants continue on to a polygraph exam and department interview, which is followed by a medical evaluation. The department will then conduct a thorough background check on the applicant. The final step in the application process is a psychological examination. Successful candidates will be appointed as recruits in an upcoming police academy cohort.
See 10 Steps to Becoming a Police Officer on our homepage for the application process in a typical big city. If you are ready to apply, find specific application information at Los Angeles Application Process page.
Los Angeles Police Academy
The Los Angeles Police Academy has three facilities in LA: Elysian Park, the Ahmanson Recruit Training Center, and the Edward Davis Training Center. The training program lasts for six months and includes rigorous physical training as well as tactical and strategic planning in a classroom. Candidates are advised to participate in the Candidate Advancement Program (CAP) to build physical fitness prior to joining the academy. Other categories of training include firearm training, academics, driving, human relations, law, various physical and endurance tests, police tactics, and specific LAPD training. For more information on Los Angeles recruit hiring and the police academy training process, consult the information found on the LAPD recruitment website.
Los Angeles Police Department Information
There are over 250 different jobs for sworn officers in the LAPD.1 All LAPD officers begin their careers in patrol. The LAPD service area is comprised of 21 stations, known as “areas” or “divisions.” These stations are divided into four command areas known as bureaus. After earning experience in patrol, officers have many opportunities for advancement. These include assignments in the Detective Bureau, Counter-Terrorism, and Special Operations.
Though highly respected, the LAPD has not been without controversy. The department still operates under provisions put into place after the Rampart Division scandal in the 1990s and 2000s, in which several officers were found guilty of extreme misconduct. The reform provisions include a directive that the new Force Investigation Division investigate all use of force; that the LAPD conduct regular department-wide audits; and that the Ethics Enforcement Section seeks to uphold acceptable professional standards. Additionally, despite a force of 9,998 sworn officers, Los Angeles has seen rising rates of violent and other crimes over the past four years; to combat the problem, the LAPD has been working to recenter its efforts on regular patrols and reassigning officers from other jobs.3
The LAPD works to make sure that its officers are connected to each and every community by offering a police force that collectively speaks 30 languages.1 Additionally, LA cops have access to interpreters 24 hours a day to communicate with citizens who speak other languages. The LAPD has a number of community projects that aim at reducing crime in the local neighborhoods. One of the most popular organizations, the Los Angeles Police Foundation, organizes and funds a number of outreach programs such as anti-drunk driving initiatives, grief counseling, domestic violence prevention, and projects to address various other community issues.
Department Contact Information
Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook
During the police academy, LAPD cops earn an annual salary of $62,118, which rises to $65,521 following graduation.1 After completing the probationary officer period, LA police earn an annual salary of $70,240.1 An officer with a college degree or two years of military or law enforcement experience can be promoted to the rank of Police Officer II, which carries a base salary of $72,976.1 Currently, the average pay of a Los Angeles area police officer is $103,730.5 The LAPD offers compressed three- and four-day work schedules, health and dental programs, and generous paid vacation and leave. LAPD officers participate in a defined benefit pension plan; members contribute 11% of their pre-tax pay each pay period to the plan until 33 years of service.6 After 20 years of service members are eligible to retire at 40% of their final average salary, with additional increases for additional years served.6
The outlook for police officers in California is positive, with 5% jobs growth projected through 2026.7 For more information on current LAPD law enforcement openings, take a look at our jobs board.
- California Fraternal Order of Police – The California Fraternal Order of Police is a membership organization that provides networking and police support opportunities.
- Los Angeles County Police Chief’s Association – The Los Angeles County Police Chief’s Association is comprised of police chief executives from each of the 45 cities in Los Angeles County. The organization seeks to advance police science and professionalism.
1. Los Angeles Police Department: http://www.lapdonline.org/
2. US News & World Report, Best Places to Live, Los Angeles, CA: https://realestate.usnews.com/places/california/los-angeles/crime
3. Los Angeles Daily News, “LAPD Shifts Hundreds of Officers to Boost Neighborhood Patrols Amid Rising Violent Crime,” 24 Jan. 2018: https://www.dailynews.com/2018/01/24/lapd-shifts-hundreds-of-officers-to-boost-neighborhood-patrols-amid-rising-violent-crime/
4. Join the LAPD: https://www.joinlapd.com/
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_31080.htm
6. Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions: https://www.lafpp.com/members/plan-details/pension-plan-information/tier6
7. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm