How to Become a Police Officer in Kentucky

    To be a police officer or sheriff’s deputy in Kentucky means having a rewarding career serving and protecting the people of the Bluegrass State. There are opportunities in local police departments, sheriff’s offices, and with the state police. Those working in law enforcement in Kentucky earn a competitive average annual salary in a state in which the cost of living is 11% lower than the national average.1,2 Prospective law enforcement officers in Kentucky must meet the requirements set by the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet (KJPSC). Learn more about these standards as well as information about careers with major departments in Kentucky below.

    Kentucky Police Officer Requirements

    The KJPSC is responsible for setting minimum peace officer requirements in Kentucky. To become certified as a peace officer with any law enforcement agency in the state, Kentucky police recruits must:

    • Be at least 21 years of age
    • Possess US citizenship
    • Have a high school diploma or GED
    • Possess a valid driver’s license
    • Pass a background check and be fingerprinted
    • Have no felonies on their record
    • Pass an oral interview, polygraph exam, a medical exam, physical fitness test, and drug screening
    • Have been honorably discharged from military service (if applicable)

    After being hired by a Kentucky law enforcement agency, recruits also must attend police academy at one of the three approved academies in the state.

    “My words of advice would be, that when first thinking about law enforcement as a career, you need to get out there and talk to officers within your community and neighboring communities. Take advantage and participate in programs local departments provide (ride-alongs, citizens police academy, internships, explorer programs) and then research the academy. Knowing what is expected of you prior to will prepare you for what to expect in the future because nothing is going to happen overnight, which is why getting involved, doing your research, and making connections early is key.” – Jill Stulz, President, Kentucky Women’s Law Enforcement Network (KWLEN)

    Kentucky Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

    The Kentucky State Police (KSP) recruits potential new troopers to help patrol the state highways, assist motorists, and investigate crashes, with opportunities to advance into other departments such as arson investigation. Kentucky troopers earn a starting salary of $37,886.3 In addition to the KJPSC requirements, KSP recruits must:

    • Have a good moral character
    • Not have more than six points against a driver’s license
    • Have a high school diploma plus three years of full-time work experience or have completed 60 college credit hours, served two years as a peace officer, or served two years in the military
    • Have no tattoos visible when in uniform

    The recruiting process begins with a written test and a physical agility test. Those who pass will move on to an interview, background check, and polygraph test. New recruits who pass all the steps may be offered employment and will then attend the training academy.

    Kentucky Sheriff Deputy Requirements

    To become a sheriff’s deputy in the state of Kentucky, new recruits must apply to the sheriff’s office in the county for which he or she hopes to work. Each county sheriff’s office sets its own hiring procedures and any requirements in addition to state minimums. Once offered a position as a deputy, the new recruit must complete a police academy.

    Jefferson County

    Jefferson County, with its county seat in Louisville, is the most populous county in Kentucky and is always in need of qualified candidates for deputies. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) requires the same standards as those set by the KJPSC and additionally disqualifies any deputy candidates who have used marijuana in the last three years or any other illegal controlled substance within the last six years. The starting salary for Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies is $35,163 per year.4

    Fayette County

    Fayette County includes the city of Lexington and is patrolled by the deputies of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. The office accepts applications at any time and sets rigorous standards for incoming recruits. In addition to the state requirements, hopeful new deputies must:

    • Demonstrate a law-abiding lifestyle
    • Not have been convicted of a misdemeanor in the two years prior to applying
    • Not have been convicted of domestic violence
    • Not have used illegal substances or un-prescribed controlled substances in the last two years
    • Not have been fired from a job in the last year
    • Have a good driving record

    Police Departments in Kentucky

    Police departments across Kentucky serve diverse communities including large cities, rural areas, and suburban towns. To work as a cop here means having a lot of choices. The hopeful new law enforcement recruit must apply to individual departments and be offered employment before attending a police academy for training and certification.


    Louisville is Kentucky’s largest city with a population close to 600,000 within city boundaries and is also one of the oldest American cities west of the Appalachian Mountains.2 The Louisville Metropolitan Police Department (LMPD) is a large force actively recruiting new officers to patrol the streets, investigate crimes, and protect residents. The LMPD offers generous compensation and benefits, including tuition reimbursement. In addition to the state requirements, new recruits must have completed either 60 college credit hours, have spent four years in the National Guard, have served in the military, or have worked for a year as a sworn police officer in another department.

    Visit our in-depth guide to Louisville police careers for information on requirements and the hiring process.


    Known as the “Horse Capital of the World,” Lexington is in the center of the rolling hills of Kentucky’s beautiful horse country. The Lexington Police Department (LPD) hiring process sets standards for new recruits above the state minimums that recruits also must meet. To become an LPD officer, Recruits must not:

    • Be prohibited from possessing a firearm
    • Have been convicted of a misdemeanor within the last year
    • Have used illegal drugs, or medications not prescribed by a doctor, within the last year
    • Have been fired within the last year
    • Have had peace officer certification from another state revoked
    • Have tattoos visible while in uniform

    The Lexington Police Department offers a starting salary of $40,252 per year, with college incentive pay and regular salary increases plus generous benefits.5

    “In my experience, the major reason for lack of success from those aspiring to be police officers is a lack of preparation. Preparation is the single most important factor and it starts with mentally preparing for the application process, which can be very lengthy and time-consuming. The candidates should talk with a recruiter or current officer of the agency they are interested in and educate themselves as much as possible about the process and expectations. Once they are satisfied they know what to expect, their primary focus should be on preparing for every step of the process to maximize their performance. Mental and physical preparation for the hiring process and ultimately, the Police Academy, is the key to success.” – Assistant Chief Dwayne Holman, Bureau of Administration, Lexington Police Department

    Police Training Academies in Kentucky

    All law enforcement recruits in Kentucky must complete a training program at an approved police academy in order to become certified as a police officer and to work for a department or sheriff’s office. To attend an academy, new recruits must first be offered employment. There are three academies in the state:

    • Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice – Richmond, KY
    • Kentucky State Police Training Academy – Frankfort, KY
    • Louisville Police Department Academy – Louisville, KY

      Kentucky Police Jobs Outlook

      The state of Kentucky is predicted to see positive growth for cops and deputies over the next several years. Through 2026, the number of positions is expected to grow by 6.7%, with a total of 480 new jobs expected to be added to the workforce.6 Patrol officers and sheriff’s deputies in the state, currently numbered at 7,520, earn an average annual salary of $45,010.1

      For more information about current law enforcement openings, take a look at our police jobs page.

      Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Kentucky

      CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
      Bowling Green340$41,240
      Louisville-Jefferson County2,630$51,370

      Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.1

      1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Kentucky: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ky.htm
      2. Sperling’s Best Places, Kentucky: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/kentucky
      3. Kentucky State Police: http://kentuckystatepolice.org/recruitment/
      4. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.jcsoky.org/
      5. Lexington Police Department: https://www.lexingtonky.gov/compensation-and-benefits-0
      6. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm