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How to Become a Police Officer in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is home to over 1.5 million people and has a lower crime rate than similarly-sized cities.1,2 However, its violent crime rates are higher than the average for the US, with 445.9 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.2 To keep the city safe, Philadelphia maintains the fourth-largest police force in the US, employing more than 6,300 sworn officers as well as 800 civilian personnel.3 The steps to becoming a cop with the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) are outlined in detail below.

Philadelphia Police Officer Requirements

Becoming a police officer in Philadelphia requires candidates to fulfill a number of eligibility standards as well as quite a few administrative steps. To meet the initial qualifications, candidates must:

  • Be at least 22 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be a US citizen
  • Hold a valid driver’s license
  • Be or become a resident of Philadelphia within six months of hire
  • Not have any felony convictions or convictions for disqualifying misdemeanors

The process to become a Philadelphia cop begins by filling out the application during an open recruiting period. Qualified applicants may be invited to an orientation, followed by a reading comprehension exam. Next, all potential officers must pass the physical fitness and agility exam that consists of a 300-meter run, sit-ups, bench press according to body weight, and a 1.5-mile run. In the next stage, prospective recruits will be subjected to an extensive background check and are required to take a medical examination and drug screening as well as a psychological evaluation and a polygraph exam. Top-performing applicants will be selected to attend the police academy for training.

During the testing process, those who are military veterans (Veteran’s Preference) and relatives of veteran Philly police officers (Legacy Preference) may be eligible for preference points that add to their cumulative score in the hiring process. There are also added preference points for those who have bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees.3

For more information, see 10 Steps to Becoming a Police Officer on our homepage and once you are ready to apply for a position, application information can be found in the career section of the Philadelphia Police Department’s website.

Richard Ross Jr. is the current Philadelphia police commissioner. Commissioner Ross has over 28 years of service with the PPD and was born and raised in the city. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Labor and Industrial Relations from Penn State University and a Master’s in Criminal Justice from Saint Joseph’s University. He has also graduated from Northwestern School of Police Staff and Command, the FBI National Academy, the National Executive Institute, and the Police Executive Leadership Institute and holds a leadership certificate from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Philadelphia Police Academy

Once candidates have met the requirements listed above, a select few will be eligible for the Philadelphia Police Academy. At the academy, new recruits will face 30 weeks and approximately 1,245 hours of intense physical, academic, and tactical training. Following graduation from the police academy cadets are considered probationary officers for another 12 months before becoming appointed as full-time, permanent officers.

Philadelphia Police Department Information

The Philadelphia PD is divided into 22 districts, each headed by a captain. These districts are further divided into six police divisions (Northwest, Northeast, East, Central, Southwest, and South). Like many big cities, Philadelphia has a number of special units such as the harbor patrol, SWAT Team, K-9 squad, and a community relations unit. PPD officers begin their careers in patrol and are eligible to take the corporal or detective exams after one year of service and the sergeant’s exam after two years of service.

While the Philadelphia Police Department has not been placed under a federal consent decree, the Department of Justice did find in 2015 that the PPD was engaging in inappropriate use of force and lacked adequate training and transparent review processes.4 The DOJ report led to reforms in the department, including enhanced recruit and in-service training, which has lead to a steady decline in police-involved shootings.3

The department is actively invested in the communities that it serves and has a number of community programs that facilitate a strong bond between the police and Philly neighborhoods. The Police Athletic League, the Explorer Cadet Program, the Youth Police Camp and the popular Heads-up Program are four of its most popular community programs.

Department Contact Information

750 Race St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 686-1776
PPD Website
PPD Facebook
PPD Twitter

Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook

During police academy training, recruits earn a salary of $49,477 per year, which is raised to $51,245 at graduation.3 With regular step increases, patrol officers can earn up to $64,459 per year plus incentives such as overtime.3 Benefits for PPD officers include health and dental insurance, vacation and holiday leave, and sick time. Officers also participate in a pension plan which vests after 10 years of service; after 25 years of service and reaching the age of 50, officers can retire at 54% of their average total compensation.3

While salaries can vary depending on education, rank, and experience, the average annual Philadelphia area patrol officer salary is $70,500 per year.5 According to projections, employment growth for police officers in Pennsylvania will be 4.1% through 2026, equating to 115 new positions added to police forces statewide each year.6

For more information on current Philadelphia law enforcement positions, take a look at our police jobs board.

Cities and Police Departments Near Philadelphia

About 14,000 police and sheriff’s patrol officers work in the Philadelphia metropolitan corridor, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.5 In addition to urban police departments like that serving Philadelphia, the area is home to several suburban departments offering career opportunities. The below table provides information on police employment and crime statistics for selected area cities.

CityForce Name/AbbreviationCity Population7Police Dept. Total Employees8Sworn Officers8Civilian Staff8Violent Crime Rate per 1,000 People9Property Crime Rate per 1,000 People9
Cherry Hill (NJ)Cherry Hill Police Department (CHPD)71,479166139270.132.73
ChesterChester Police Department (CPD)34,07710393101.63.08
PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia Police Department (PPD)1,584,1387,9956,3131,6820.983.11
Trenton (NJ)Trenton Police Department (TPD)84,9643812461351.32.57
Wilmington (DE)Wilmington Police Department (WPD)71,106360302581.84.98

Additional Resources

References:
1. Sperling’s Best Places, Philadelphia, PA: https://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/city/pennsylvania/philadelphia
2. US News & World Report Best Places to Live, Philadelphia, PA: https://realestate.usnews.com/places/pennsylvania/philadelphia/crime
3. Philadelphia Police Department: http://www.phillypolice.com/
4. MSNBC, “DOJ Report Reveals Problem-Plagued Philadelphia Police Department,” 23 Mar. 2015: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/doj-report-philadelphia-police-department
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Philadelphia, PA: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_37964.htm
6. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
7. US Census Bureau, QuickFacts: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045218
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