How to Become a Police Officer in Delaware
Delaware’s population has seen 42.34% growth since the year 2000 and is currently standing at nearly 950,000 people, increasing the state’s need for qualified law enforcement officers.1 Though Delaware has relatively few local police departments due to its small land area, its state police force had the largest number of sworn officers per 100,000 residents as of 2008.2 Taken together these are positive indicators for those who are considering a career as a Delaware police officer.
Like all states, Delaware has set requirements for those who wish to become a police officer. Although law enforcement agencies within the state may require standards above and beyond the state minimum, all prospective Delaware officers must meet the basic requirements established by the Delaware Council on Police Training (COPT). This page will outline the process of becoming a Delaware police officer.
Delaware Police Officer Requirements
The Delaware Council on Police Training (COPT) was established to create professional standards and minimum qualifications for all Delaware law enforcement officers. Police departments may elect to adopt additional standards beyond the state minimums, but all state and local law enforcement agencies in Delaware have adopted the COPT standards as a base guideline. These standards require that candidates:
- Be a US citizen
- Be at least 18 years of age for seasonal police work or at least 21 years of age for full-time police work
- Hold a high school diploma or GED
- Have visual acuity correctable to 20/20 and normal color vision and hearing
- Possess a valid driver’s license
- Have no felony or disqualifying misdemeanor convictions
- Meet Cooper Institute standards for height, build, and body fat percentage
- Have an honorable discharge, if a military veteran
Law enforcement agencies in all states require candidates to pass a number of exams in order to qualify as a sworn officer. In Delaware, the COPT requires that at a minimum, candidates pass a physical exam administered by a licensed physician as well as a physical ability test, a psychological exam to assess competency for law enforcement, and a written exam.
To uphold the law, police officers must have records clear of legal infractions. In order to ensure that prospective officers have impeccable backgrounds, candidates for law enforcement positions in Delaware must complete a background investigation that includes a fingerprint-based background check of local, state, and national fingerprint files and records and a personal interview. Applicants who qualify during the hiring process will have the opportunity to attend a law enforcement training program that meets COPT standards for sworn officers.
Delaware Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements
The Delaware State Police has one of the highest officer-to-civilian ratios in the country, with approximately 650 sworn officers.4 Headquartered in Dover, the department’s Traffic Section is tasked with the primary goal of reducing motor vehicle collisions. In addition to traditional patrol, Delaware state troopers may also work for the motorcycle unit, which primarily works in highly congested areas. During training, state troopers earn $48,000 per year, which rises to a base salary of $59,000 following training.4
To work as a Delaware state trooper, candidates must:
- Meet minimum state standards for law enforcement officers
- Be at least 21 years of age by completion of training, and not older than 39 on the first day of training
- Have at least 60 semester hours from an accredited college, or have 30 semester hours plus two years of active duty military service, Delaware police service, or trooper service in another state
- Not have used illegal drugs within two years prior to application, nor have used hallucinogenic drugs at any time
- Establish residency in Delaware by the conclusion of academy training
Although candidates must only have 30 to 60 hours of college credit to qualify for state trooper training in Delaware, all candidates must have 60 credit hours to qualify for the rank of Sergeant. To compete for the rank of Lieutenant and all ranks above, candidates must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Candidates who have completed more than the minimum 30 credits of college study at the time of application may, therefore, be seen as more desirable hires by the department.
Delaware Sheriff Deputy Requirements
Delaware has the fewest number of counties of any state in the US, with only three: New Castle, Kent, and Sussex. As provided for by the state legislature, each county may set its own requirements for sheriff’s deputies. However, county sheriffs in Delaware, unlike in most other areas, do not have the same law enforcement duties and powers as other law enforcement officials. In 2012, this was codified in law by the passage of House Bill #325, which clarifies that sheriffs and sheriff’s deputies in Delaware do not have arrest authority. Instead, the focus of sheriff’s offices in Delaware is largely administrative.
The Kent County Sheriff’s Office is primarily responsible for carrying out functions related to state and federal court processes and real estate sales. Sheriff’s deputies in this county also transport prisoners and provide courtroom security. To become a Kent County sheriff’s deputy, candidates must:
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Possess at least five years experience as a sworn law enforcement officer, or hold a college degree with coursework in law enforcement and/or legal procedures
- Possess a valid driver’s license with a good driving record
New Castle County
The New Castle County Sheriff carries out duties for the state and federal court systems such as delivering subpoenas and also conducts sales of foreclosure properties.
The Sussex County Sheriff’s Office serves court papers and administers property sales for mortgage foreclosures, delinquent taxes, and other court orders.
Police Departments in Delaware
There are 36 local police departments in Delaware with approximately 1,800 sworn personnel.5 All future Delaware police officers must meet state as well as local agency requirements to attend police academy training. Upon graduation from a police academy officers typically complete additional on-the-job training, including continuing education for advanced police tactics.
With an authorized strength of 320 sworn officers, the Wilmington Police Department (WPD) is the largest urban police force in Delaware.6 The department consists of several patrol units and a criminal investigation division as well as units for administrative services and planning and research. In order to qualify as a full-time officer with the Wilmington PD, candidates must meet state requirements and:
- Be at least 20 years of age at the time of application
- Have a valid driver’s license and the ability to obtain a Delaware driver’s license
- Meet the department’s physical agility standards
- Pass written and physical exams
- Complete an oral interview with the police hiring board
- Establish residency in Wilmington within six months of hire
The City of Dover Police Department (DPD) provides law enforcement services to Delaware’s capital city. Major divisions within the department include patrol, criminal investigations, special enforcement, and criminal investigations. Overall, approximately 80 sworn officers work for the Dover PD.7 To become one of Dover’s finest, candidates must meet state requirements and:
- Be at least 21 years of age but not more than 35 years of age by completion of academy training
- Hold a high school diploma or GED; though it is not required, candidates with college level coursework in fields related to police work are preferred
- Possess a valid Delaware driver’s license
- Have no history of drug use that would result in disqualification
- Establish Dover residency by the completion of poliec academy training
After academy training, police officers in Dover start at an annual salary of between $51,000 and $56,311.7
Police Training Academies in Delaware
All sworn officers in Delaware must complete law enforcement training at an approved police academy. Academy curriculums provide hands-on training in police procedure as well as academic content. Completion of a police academy training program is the base-level training requirement; officers typically receive additional field training and continuing education following graduation from the academy. There are four police training academies in Delaware, which include:
- Delaware State Police Training Academy – Dover, DE
- New Castle County/ Lieutenant Joseph L. Szczerba Police Academy – New Castle, DE
- University Of Delaware Law Enforcement Training Program – Wilmington, DE
- Wilmington Police Department Academy – Wilmington, DE
Delaware Police Jobs Outlook
Though it is one of the smaller states in the nation, Delaware still offers opportunities for those looking to begin a career in law enforcement. Positive if moderate job growth is expected for police officers in Delaware, with a projected job growth rate of 6.7% through 2026.8 Including replacements, an average of 130 annual openings for Delaware police are anticipated during this period.8 Police officers in Delaware are among the most highly paid in the nation, with an average annual salary of $68,630.5
Many employment opportunities for Delaware cops will likely come from the retirements of veteran police officers. In metropolitan areas recruitment may increase as local populations grow. Future police officers should be aware that opportunities for law enforcement officers are strongly tied to state and city budgets, which may influence where and when Delaware police officer jobs are posted. For more information on available law enforcement jobs in Delaware, take a look at our police jobs board.
Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Delaware
|City||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Wilmington DE-MD-NJ Metropolitan Division||1,400||$69,020|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.9
1. Sperling’s Best Places, Delaware: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/delaware
2. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, 2008: https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/csllea08.pdf
3. Delaware Council on Police Training: https://regulations.delaware.gov/AdminCode/title1/800/801.shtml
4. Delaware State Police: https://dsp.delaware.gov/
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm
6. Wilmington Police Department: https://www.wilmingtonde.gov/government/city-departments/department-of-police
7. City of Dover Police Department: https://doverpolice.org/
8. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm
9. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates,