How to Become a Police Officer in Arkansas
The population of Arkansas is growing at a moderate but steady rate, with just over 3 million residents as of 2018.1 To serve the growing population, there were 6,080 sworn officers in the state as of 2017.2 As the state’s population grows, so does the need for law enforcement, making Arkansas a promising place to become a police officer. As in other states, Arkansas has established guidelines and requirements for those who wish to become a police officer. Though requirements for Arkansas cops may vary by jurisdiction there are standard pathways for all prospective officers in the state, which you will find outlined below.
Arkansas Police Officer Requirements
The minimum qualification and training standards for Arkansas police officers are established by the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training (CLEST). All officer candidates in the state must meet CLEST guidelines in order to become sworn officers, though certain police departments may establish additional requirements above those set by CLEST. Prospective officers should also note that though it may not be required for entry-level careers, college credit can provide candidates with a competitive edge for employment and advancement opportunities.
The minimums established by CLEST require that recruits:
- Be a US citizen
- Be at least 21 years old
- Be a high school graduate or GED holder
- Have a valid driver’s license
- Have no felony convictions
In addition to setting minimum qualifications for police recruits, CLEST also sets minimum examination requirements that are designed to ensure that appointed officers will uphold the law and operate at the highest standards. Arkansas police recruits must, therefore, pass a medical exam including a physical fitness component, pass a psychological exam, undergo an extensive background investigation that includes a national and state criminal history check with fingerprints, and complete a personal interview with the department as part of the application process.
Applicants who pass these exams will become police recruits, at which point they must complete an approved police training academy.
Arkansas Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements
The Arkansas State Police boasts that it has some of the highest minimum standards for prospective law enforcement officers of any agency.
Those seeking to become an Arkansas state trooper must:
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Be a US citizen
- Possess a valid and current driver’s license
- Hold a high school diploma or GED
- Meet the department’s visual acuity standards
- Be free of any felony charges and misdemeanor domestic violence charges
- Have no visible tattoos when in the state trooper uniform (summer or winter)
Those who meet these requirements will complete physical, written, and psychological exams as well as a background investigation. Successful applicants proceed to the Arkansas State Police Training Academy in Little Rock. Trooper training encompasses 1,080 hours of physical, academic, and practical exercises. Upon graduation, troopers are assigned to 12 weeks of field training before being given their county of assignment for patrol duties.
Arkansas Sheriff Deputy Requirements
There are 75 counties in Arkansas, each of which elects a sheriff, who in turn appoints sheriff’s deputies to assist with routine duties. Sheriffs and sheriff’s deputies in Arkansas must meet the same minimum requirements as all other law enforcement officers in Arkansas. In addition, these law enforcement professionals must:
- Be a qualified elector (voter) in the county in which they are appointed
- Be a resident of the county in which they are appointed
The Craigshead County Sheriff’s Office, which includes Jonesboro and Lake City in its jurisdiction, employs approximately 30 sworn deputies along with numerous support personnel.4 Specialty units within the Craigshead County Sheriff’s Office include K-9 patrol, a DIVE team, and a special response team. In addition, the department is restarting a mounted patrol for search and rescue and public relations.
To become a Craigshead County deputy sheriff, candidates must meet Arkansas state requirements and:
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Submit a personal history statement to begin the application process
Though Sebastian County is the smallest county in Arkansas in area, it is also one of the largest in population due in part to the city of Fort Smith sitting within its boundaries. The Sebastian County Sheriff’s Department maintains divisions for patrol, criminal investigation, detention, and traffic, among other law enforcement responsibilities.
Police Departments in Arkansas
There are many opportunities for aspiring cops to begin careers as police officers in the many state and local police departments serving the state’s public. Approximately 248 city police departments operate in Arkansas. Note that individual police department requirements may be more strict than the state minimums.
With a population over 88,000 as of 2017, Fort Smith is the second-largest city in Arkansas.1 The Fort Smith Police Department (FSPD) hires officer candidates on an annual basis or during special recruitments according to the department’s need. There are approximately 141 sworn officers working for the department.5 In addition to meeting state minimum guidelines for officers, officer candidates with the FSPD must:
- Post a score of at least 70% on the Civil Service Written Exam
- Pass two oral interviews
The Fort Smith Police Department offers a starting salary of $37,440 per year.7
With 525 sworn officers, the Little Rock Police Department (LRPD) is the largest law enforcement agency in the state of Arkansas.5 Divisions within the Little Rock PD include major crimes, field services, special operations, and special investigations. The department looks for candidates who meet state standards for officers and who can uphold the department’s philosophy of community-oriented policing.
Police Training Academies in Arkansas
All law enforcement officers in Arkansas must complete a training program that meets the standards set by the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training (CLEST). CLEST additionally sets standards for certification for field training officers, instructors, and other specialized police personnel.
CLEST-approved training facilities include:
- Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA) – East Camden, AR
- Northwest Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA) – Springdale, AR
- Arkansas State Police Training Section – Little Rock, AR
Arkansas Police Jobs Outlook
In keeping with the population growth that Arkansas is experiencing the expected job growth rate for Arkansas police officers is strong, with a projected 12.4% increase in available police and sheriff’s patrol officer positions through 2026.7 This rate of increase translates to 490 average annual openings across the state, including replacements as well as new positions.7 As police officers in the state earn an average annual salary of $38,450, this makes Arkansas a promising state in which to begin a career as a police officer.2
As in most states, the demand for police officers in Arkansas is likely to be strongest in metropolitan areas such as Little Rock and Fayetteville. However, Conway, Hot Springs, and Jonesboro are also home to police forces larger than the state average.5 In addition, openings due to retirement and voluntary leave are anticipated in rural areas as well as metro areas. You can find out more about available Arkansas police jobs on our police jobs board.
Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Arkansas
|City||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway||1,710||$45,620|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2
1. US Census Bureau, Arkansas: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/AR/PST045221
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Arkansas: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ar.htm
3. Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards & Training: https://www.dps.arkansas.gov/law-enforcement/clest/
4. Craigshead County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.craigheadso.org/
5. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Full-time Law Enforcement Employees: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-26/table-26-state-cuts/table-26-arkansas.xls
6. Fort Smith Police Department: https://www.fortsmithpd.org/index.php/citizens-portal/employment
7. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm