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How to Become a Police Officer in Colorado

There are almost 9,500 sworn police and sheriff patrol officers employed in Colorado, sworn to protect and serve the state’s population of over 5.6 million.1,2 Aspiring police and sheriff officers looking to enter Colorado law enforcement will find a wide variety of career opportunities.

To become a police officer in Colorado, candidates must meet a number of requirements. While the state has an established list of standard criteria, keep in mind that local police and sheriff departments may have additional hiring prerequisites in addition to the ones set by the state. In addition, although it may not be an official requirement, it’s quite common that someone with an associate’s degree or some type of criminal justice degree is favorably considered for law enforcement employment over those with the basic state minimums.

Colorado Police Officer Requirements

The Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (POST) is responsible for the training and certification of the state’s law enforcement personnel. The certification process is highly selective to ensure that the Colorado cops are thoroughly prepared to serve the public in the most professional manner possible.

The requirements for becoming a police officer in Colorado are fairly similar to other states in terms of background and education. The Colorado POST minimum requirements state that candidates must:

  • Hold a high school diploma or an equivalent GED
  • Be 21 years of age by date of hire
  • Hold Colorado driver’s license or state-issued ID card
  • Have up-to-date first aid and CPR certificates or equivalents
  • Be free of any felony convictions or disqualifying misdemeanors
  • Pass an extensive background check

For more information on misdemeanor charges that may also disqualify candidates, visit the Colorado POST website. Also note that while Colorado requires candidates to hold a high school diploma or GED certificate, it is increasingly common for local police departments to require a college degree, preferably in criminal justice.

Required Examinations

Candidates who meet Colorado’s hiring prerequisites may be invited to proceed in the hiring process by passing a number of exams. While a written exam is not required by the Colorado POST, some police departments may require one. All candidates will, however, need to pass a physical examination by a licensed physician and a test of overall fitness levels, pass a psychological examination administered by a licensed psychologist, and complete a POST-approved basic police training program.

“Be impeccable. Remember that everything you say and do is a reflection of who you are. Now that I’m in management, I look for officers who are strong in character – we can teach the skills necessary to do the job but it’s more challenging to find those who are there for the right reasons. If you are planning on entering the field of law enforcement, be sure you understand that you WILL be held to a higher standard. This is not unjust, but a necessary fact. Those who are chosen to uphold the constitution and must do so with responsibility and that means they must live their lives as an example.” – Kristen Ziman, Commander with the Aurora Police Department

Colorado State Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The Colorado State Patrol (CSP) was established in 1935 and today boasts 742 sworn officers and civilian staff.3 The current chief of the Colorado State Patrol is Colonel Matthew C. Packard, a 19-year veteran of the agency.

For anyone looking to work as a Colorado state trooper, there are quite a few requirements to meet. Similar to becoming a police officer in the state, aspiring troopers must be at least 21 years old by the time of hire and must hold a high school diploma or GED. Like most public service positions in Colorado, any candidate with a college degree in a criminal justice field will most likely be favorably viewed. Candidates also must:

  • Be a resident of Colorado
  • Be a US citizen or have official documentation (Form I-9) from the Department of Homeland Security, showing permission to live and work in the US
  • Possess a current, valid Colorado driver’s license
  • Have 20/20 vision with normal perception (depth, color, night vision, acuity, and peripheral)
  • Pass the written Next Generation Entry Level Law Enforcement Aptitude Test
  • Pass the department’s physical exam

Applicants who advance in the hiring process will also undergo an extensive background investigation and pre-employment polygraph, oral board interviews, and psychological examinations before receiving a conditional offer of hire and completing the basic training academy.

Colorado Sheriff Deputy Requirements

Colorado is divided into 64 counties, each with an elected sheriff. The process for becoming a sheriff’s deputy is similar to the requirements to become a Colorado police officer. In addition to meeting the state requirements, certain prerequisites like education and testing may differ from county to county.

Denver County

The Denver Sheriff’s Department is the largest sheriff’s department in the state of Colorado and relies on over 800 full-time personnel to protect and serve the Denver area.4 The department is Triple Crown Certified, with accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), the American Correctional Association (ACA), and the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare (NCCH). The current Sheriff is Patrick Firman. The starting pay for sheriff’s deputies in Denver is $58,025 per year, with deputies able to advance to up to $80,856 per year in base pay.4

The department requires that all new candidates for sheriff or sheriff’s deputy positions must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma or a GED certificate
  • Be a United States citizen
  • Possess a valid Colorado driver’s license by the time of hire, with a clean driving record
  • Not have any convictions for felonies, including deferred judgements, nor any other convictions or deferred judgements within the past five years
  • Meet the department’s past drug and alcohol use policies
  • Pass written, physical, and medical exams
  • Submit to a psychological exam and attend an integrity interview
  • Submit to an extensive background check and polygraph

El Paso County

El Paso County is the state’s most populous county, encompassing Colorado Springs and home to over 600,000 citizens.5 The current El Paso Sheriff is Bill Elder, who oversees the approximately 454 sworn officers who serve with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO).5 Deputy recruits start at a monthly salary of $4,251, which equates to an annual salary of $51,012.5

For anyone looking to work as a sheriff’s deputy in El Paso County, the department requires that candidates:

  • Be 21 years of age
  • Be a high school graduate or equivalent
  • Be a US citizen
  • Possess a Colorado driver’s license
  • Be financially responsible
  • Be in good health
  • Have correctable 20/20 eyesight
  • Have proper weight in proportion to height

Police Departments in Colorado

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are approximately 9,400 sworn police and sheriff’s patrol officers employed in Colorado.1 All law enforcement officers in the state must meet the basic requirements stipulated by the Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (POST). However, individual departments may set requirements for employment above the state minimums.

Denver

The largest police force in Colorado is the Denver Police Department (DPD), with over 1,400 sworn officers under the direction of Chief Paul Pazen.6 The hiring process to become a Denver cop is overseen by the Denver Civil Service Commission. The basic qualifications for prospective Denver cops are the same as state POST requirements. However, the testing process is intensive. Candidates who meet these qualifications must:

  • Pass an online application, initial written test, and initial video test
  • Pass a language skills test and written suitability test
  • Take a polygraph examination and preliminary interview with a psychologist
  • Pass a physical agility test
  • Pass a background investigation
  • Complete interviews with the department
  • Pass a drug screen and medical exam, as well as a final psychological exam
  • Complete police academy training

For more information on careers in the Denver Police Department, take a look at our in-depth guide on How to Become a Police Officer in Denver.

Colorado Springs

The Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) has nearly 700 sworn officers that work under the the chief of police, currently Interim Chief Vince Niski.7 Like most local departments, requirements to become a Colorado Springs police officer follow state POST standards. However, the department also has additional qualifications for recruits. Applicants must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age at the date of hire
  • Have an honorable discharge, if a US military veteran
  • Have an associate’s degree or 60 college semester hours from an accredited institution
  • Have a good financial record

Candidates who are bilingual may have an edge in the CSPD hiring process. Those who are successful will be hired as police recruits, with a starting salary of $4,583 per month ($54,996 per year).7 For additional information on police careers in Colorado Springs, read our How to Become a Police Officer in Colorado Springs guide.

Police Training Academies in Colorado

Candidates who have met all of the requirements and passed all of the exams required by the hiring police department must next attend and complete training at one of Colorado’s 19 POST-approved basic training academies. Colorado also requires candidates to hold a first aid and CPR certificate before they take the final peace officer certification examination.

Colorado POST Basic Training Academies include:

  • Adams County Sheriff’s Office POST Academy – Brighton, CO
  • Aurora Police Training Academy – Aurora, CO
  • Colorado Springs Police Department Training Academy – Colorado Springs,, CO
  • Colorado State Patrol Training Academy – Golden, CO
  • Denver Police Academy – Denver, CO

For a complete list of Colorado POST accredited training academies, consult the POST website.

Colorado Police Jobs Outlook

The outlook for police careers in Colorado is positive. According to the BLS, the average annual wage for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Colorado was $71,270 in May 2017.1 Jobs growth for Colorado police officers is projected at 13% through 2026, with an anticipated 810 average annual openings.8

Replacement hirings are expected to rise significantly due to a large number of baby boomer police veterans who will be retiring over the next decade years. Additionally, employment and recruitment cycles tend to coincide with allocated state budgets. To see current law enforcement openings, take a look at our police jobs board.

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Colorado

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Boulder640$77,470
Colorado Springs1,260$68,980
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood4,350$77,380

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.1

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Colorado: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_co.htm
2. US Census Bureau, Colorado: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/co/PST045217
3. Colorado State Patrol: https://www.colorado.gov/csp
4. Denver County Sheriff Department: https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/sheriff-department.html
5. El Paso County Sheriff: https://www.epcsheriffsoffice.com/
6. Denver Police Department: https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/police-department.html
7. Colorado Springs Police Department: https://coloradosprings.gov/police-department
8. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm