How to Become a Police Officer in Tucson
Tucson is a unique city with a number of attractions that draw in tourists and new residents alike. The population of the city is over 531,000, which includes thousands of students at the University of Arizona.1 Tucson is the second-largest city in Arizona, after Phoenix, and is served by the dedicated officers of the Tucson Police Department (TPD). The TPD employs approximately 870 uniformed officers and 298 civilian support staff.2 The process of joining the force and becoming a Tucson police officer is detailed below.
Tucson Police Officer Requirements
The TPD is always looking for the best candidates to join the force. To meet the minimum requirements for applying, candidates must:
- Have US citizenship
- Be a minimum age of 21
- Hold a high school diploma or GED
- Possess a valid driver’s license with at least two years of driving history
- Have no felony convictions
- Not have had a DUI within the past three years
- Not have been dishonorably discharged from the military
To be considered for a position with the department, qualified candidates begin the hiring process by filling out an online application. Candidates who are selected from the application process will then undergo several tests and examinations. These include a written test, a physical fitness test, a background investigation, an oral board interview, a psychological assessment, and a medical and drug screening test. Top-performing candidates will be offered a job with the TPD and placed in an upcoming police academy recruit class.
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, find specific application information on the Tucson Police Department careers portal.
Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center
Candidates who are accepted as Tucson police recruits and offered employment must complete basic training at the Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center (SALETC). The program includes 23 weeks of para-military training. Training includes a variety of skills needed to perform the job of a police officer, including firearm use, police driving, patrol procedures, and much more. Physical fitness is an integral part of the program and recruits are advised to arrive at the academy in top physical condition.
Tucson Police Department Information
The Tucson Police Department has existed since 1871 when just one marshal was responsible for the small, but growing western town. Today, the TPD prides itself on being staffed with a diverse force of officers that represents the city as a whole. The department is made up of 14 divisions and 25 units, representing a wealth of career opportunities for officers. These opportunities include working in air support, explosive and hazardous devices, SWAT, investigations, and violent crimes.
The Tucson Police Department is currently short-staffed and has faced complaints about long response times for emergency as well as non-emergency calls and lack of patrols and police visibility as a result.3 Only about 322 of the department’s sworn force is assigned to patrol and 911 response, which is far short of what observers say is needed.3 Tucson Chief of Police Magnus points towards officers leaving the TPD at a faster rate than they can be replaced in the recruitment process as a root cause for the shortage.3
To help residents better understand the TPD and what officers do to protect and serve the people of the city, the department runs a Citizen Police Academy. There are two 12-week sessions offered each year. The TPD also offers a Safe Teen Accident Reduction Training (START). This is a teen driver class open to anyone between the ages of 16 to 18 years old.
Department Contact Information
Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook
The annual starting salary for a new officer with the TPD is $47,132.4 Officers receive regular increases and can qualify for pay incentives including shift differentials, overtime, special assignment pay, detective pay, and tuition reimbursement. Officers also receive paid holidays, sick, and vacation leave as well as health, dental, and life insurance. After 25 years of service, officers can retire through the city’s pension plan at 62.5% of their average salary from their top five highest-earning years on the force.4
The average annual salary for an officer in Tucson is $61,260.5 Growth in law enforcement jobs in Arizona is expected to be positive. Projections suggest that through 2026, growth in this field will be 6.9%.4 For more information on current TPD law enforcement positions, take a look at our police jobs board.
Cities and Police Departments Near Tucson
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that approximately 1,570 police and sheriff’s patrol officers work in the Tucson metro area.5 In addition to opportunities with the urban Tucson PD, prospective officers can find opportunities with local suburbs and rural communities. The table below compares selected area cities based on police employment and crime data.
|City||Force Name/Abbreviation||City Population7||Police Dept. Total Employees8||Sworn Officers8||Civilian Staff8||Violent Crime Rate per 1,000 People9||Property Crime Rate per 1,000 People9|
|Oro Valley||Oro Valley Police Department (OVPD)||44,350||128||100||28||0.07||1.47|
|Sierra Vista||Sierra Vista Police Department (OVPD)||42,912||94||70||24||0.2||2.98|
|Tucson||Tucson Police Department (TPD)||545,975||1,168||870||298||0.78||5.73|
- Tucson Police Officers Association – The Tucson Police Officers Association advocates for officers politically and legally at the local, state, and federal levels.
- Fraternal Order of Police Tucson Lodge – The Fraternal Order of Police Tucson Lodge offers advocacy and legal benefits for non-federal Tucson police officers.
1. Sperling’s Best Places, Tucson, Arizona: https://www.bestplaces.net/city/arizona/tucson
2. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Full-time Law Enforcement Employees by State by City, 2016: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-26/table-26.xls/view
3. KGUN 9, “Tucson Police Deal With Staffing Shortage,” 18 May 2018: https://www.kgun9.com/longform/tucson-police-deal-with-staffing-shortage
4. Tucson Police Department: https://tpdrecruiting.tucsonaz.gov/
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Tucson, AZ: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_46060.htm#33-0000
6. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm
7. US Census Bureau, QuickFacts: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219
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