How to Become a Police Officer in Arkansas
The population of Arkansas grew at a moderate but steady rate of 3.3% between 2010 and 2014.1 To serve the growing population, there were 7,001 sworn officers in the state as of 2014 according to the Arkansas Crime Information Center.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 minimum requirements established by CLEST are as follows:
Nationality, Age and Education
To be eligible for hiring consideration, Arkansas police officer candidates must:
- Be a US citizen by birth or through naturalization
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Be a high school graduate or hold a GED
- Hold a valid driver’s license
There are a number of examinations that prospective Arkansas cops must successfully complete before, during, and after training. Before entering a training academy, candidates must complete:
- A medical exam proving physical fitness in accordance with state standards for officers
- A psychological exam completed by an Arkansas licensed psychiatrist or psychologist
Due to their responsibilities to the public, police officers must have clean criminal records. In Arkansas, a prospective police officer may not have a felony record. The background checks for prospective officers are comprehensive and include:
- A state and national fingerprint criminal history check
- A background investigation to establish good moral character
- A personal interview with the hiring department
After a candidate officer has demonstrated that he or she meets the minimum requirements, the next step is to complete officer training at an approved training facility, such as the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA).
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. The department employed 495 officers as of 2010, with those assigned to trooper duties patrolling over 16,000 miles of state highways.4,5
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
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 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 employs 30 sworn deputies along with numerous support personnel.7Specialty units within the Craigshead County Sheriff’s Office include K-9 patrol, a DIVE team, and a special response team. In addition, the department maintains a mounted patrol for search and rescue and public relations. The department is currently headed by Sheriff Marty Boyd.
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. All day-to-day operations of the sheriff’s office are currently overseen by Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck and Chief Deputy Hobe Runion.
Police Departments in Arkansas
Many Arkansas law enforcement officers begin their careers as police officers in one of the many state and local police departments serving the state’s public. Across the state, 5,500 men and women worked as police and sheriff’s patrol officers as of 2014.9 Though department requirements may vary, all police officers in Arkansas must meet the minimum requirements outlined by the state.
With a population over 87,000 as of 2014, Fort Smith is the second-largest city in Arkansas.9 The Fort Smith Police Department hires officer candidates on an annual basis or during special recruitments according to the department’s need. As of 2014, there were 165 sworn officers working for the department.9 In addition to meeting state minimum guidelines for officers, officer candidates with the Fort Smith PD must post a score of at least 70% on the Civil Service Written Exam and pass two oral interviews. The department also offers base salary increases of up to 7% according to an officer’s college degree attainment.9
With 557 sworn officers, the Little Rock Police Department is the largest law enforcement agency in the state of Arkansas.2 Divisions within the Little Rock PD include major crimes, field services, special operations, and special investigations. Current Police Chief Kenton Buckner has over 21 years of experience in law enforcement. 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
- 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 9.8% increase in available police and sheriff’s patrol officer positions between 2012 and 2022.12 This rate of increase translates to 240 average annual openings across the state.12 As police officers in the state earn an average annual salary of $37,730, this makes Arkansas a promising state in which to begin a career as a police officer.10
As in most states, the demand for police officers in Arkansas is likely to be strongest in metropolitan areas such as Little Rock. However, Jefferson County, Saline County, and Washington County are also home to police forces larger than the state average.2 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 law enforcement jobs on our Police Jobs page.
Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Arkansas
|City||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway||1,560||$43,680|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.
1. US Census Bureau, Arkansas: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/05,00
2. Arkansas Crime Information Center: Arkansas Crime Information Center
3. Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards & Training: http://www.clest.org/
4. Arkansas State Police, Hiring Process: http://asp.arkansas.gov/recruiting/trooper-recruiting/hiring-process
5. Arkansas State Police, 2010 Annual Report: https://static.ark.org/eeuploads/asp/annual_report_2010.pdf
6. Association of Arkansas Counties Sheriffs Manual: http://www.arkansassheriffsassociation.com/plugins/show_image.php?id=433
7. Craigshead County Sheriff’s Office: http://www.craigheadso.org/
8. Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office: http://www.sebastiancountyar.gov/Sheriff
9. Fort Smith Police Department: http://www.fortsmithpd.org/Assets/2014AnnualReport.pdf
10. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Arkansas: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ar.htm
11. Little Rock Police Department: https://www.littlerock.gov/for-residents/police-department/
12. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm