How to Become a Police Officer in Mississippi
As of 2018, an estimated 7,520 police officers worked in Mississippi.1 The cost of living in Mississippi is 12.2% lower than the US national average, and the state has seen steady population growth of 5% over the last several years.2 These statistics make pursuing a police officer career in Mississippi an attractive option. There are many requirements for those looking to become a police officer in Mississippi, which may vary by the hiring agency. However, there are standard expectations for all prospective cops in the state, which are outlined below, along with more specific information for well-known Mississippi law enforcement agencies.
Mississippi Police Officer Requirements
The Mississippi Board on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Training (BLEOST) sets the standards and requirements for police officers statewide. The minimum requirements for prospective Mississippi officers outlined by BLEOST state that candidates must:
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Be US citizens, whether by birth or by naturalization
- Possess a high school diploma or GED
- Have good mental and physical health, evidenced by a physician’s exam
- Not have a history of any disqualifying criminal convictions or charges
Prospective recruits in Mississippi will need to pass a physical abilities exam during the hiring process, and will also typically need to pass a written exam. A background investigation is also undertaken during the hiring process. Felony or misdemeanor convictions may disqualify a candidate from serving, depending on the offense. Candidates whose backgrounds prove satisfactory and who meet the other requirements outlined above will be eligible to complete Mississippi’s required Law Enforcement Officers Training Program (LEOTP), after which the candidate will receive his or her professional law enforcement officer certificate. During training, candidate officers must pass exams relating to academic content, firearms qualifying, defensive driving, and defensive tactics, among other topics.
Mississippi Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements
The Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol (MHSP) promotes safety and upholds the enforcement of state laws on state and federal roadways. With over two million licensed drivers traveling an average of 41 million miles per year on the state’s highways, the services of trained and qualified Mississippi state troopers are indispensable.3 The MHSP sets hiring standards above the state minimums, so prospective state troopers must meet state requirements and:
- Either be 23 years of age with a high school diploma or GED; or be 21 years of age with an associate’s degree; or be 21 years of age with a high school diploma and four years of active duty military experience; or be 21 years of age with a high school diploma and one year of experience as a certified sworn law enforcement officer
- Be a Mississippi resident
- Possess a valid driver’s license
Approved candidates will undertake the MHSP training program, which includes academic instruction and rigorous physical training.
Mississippi Sheriff Deputy Requirements
There are 82 county sheriff’s departments in Mississippi. The number of sheriff’s deputies working in each county is based on population and set by law. For example, counties with populations of over 35,000 will have a chief deputy as well as at least one sheriff’s deputy.4 The requirements for these positions state that candidates must meet the same basic requirements as all other law enforcement officers in the state, and:
- Not have previously been convicted of a felony
- Be qualified and registered to vote in their county of residence
- Complete an appropriate training program at the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers’ Academy within one year of appointment, unless the candidate has at least five years of experience in law enforcement or has already attended the academy
The DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department consists of several divisions, including a patrol division, criminal investigations bureau, fugitive division, and special investigations bureau, leading to many employment opportunities for prospective Mississippi sheriff’s deputies and patrol officers. The largest division in the Desoto County Sheriff’s Office is the uniform patrol, which deploys 64 officers across four units – patrol, K-9, school resource, and traffic.5 Prospective deputies for DeSoto County must meet the state-set requirements outlined above and must not have previous criminal convictions.
The Harrison County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) is continually recruiting for patrol deputies, corrections officers, and support positions. The HCSO’s three major divisions work with other law enforcement agencies to uphold safety and the law across the 976 square mile county.6 Harrison County’s jurisdiction includes the busy city of Gulfport and miles of waterways both inland and along the Gulf Coast, which are patrolled by the sheriff’s marine patrol and beach patrol. The base salary for HCSO patrol deputies is $34,080 per year.6
Police Departments in Mississippi
There are 220 local police departments deploying approximately 4,000 sworn personnel in Mississippi. Though minimum standards for law enforcement officers are set by state legislation, certain police departments may have more stringent requirements to ensure that the best-qualified officers are recruited. Those who are recruited will complete police academy training as well as on-the-job training to prepare for patrol.
Jackson is the largest city in Mississippi by population and is the state capitol. The Jackson Police Department (JPD) has an authorized force of 525 sworn officers and 288 non-sworn support personnel.7 As in other large police departments, each division is divided into precincts by geographic area and response specialty; altogether, the JPD is responsible for primary law enforcement services across 115 square miles.7 Prospective recruits must meet state standards for Mississippi cops and may not have any felonies or domestic violence convictions on their records.
The Gulfport Police Department (GPD) consists of over 200 sworn officers and 92 civilian support staff.8 The department recruits on an ongoing basis for police officers and reserve officers and offers college tuition assistance that can help recruits advance within the department as they earn college credits. Prospective Gulfport police officers must meet state requirements and have visual acuity that is correctable to 20/20. Gulfport also uses a written civil service exam as the initial step in its screening process for police recruits.
Police Training Academies in Mississippi
All law enforcement officers in Mississippi must complete an approved Law Enforcement Officers Training Program (LEOTP) within two years from the date of hire. Recruits must pass each of the six major components of training with the minimum averages set by the Mississippi BLEOST: academics, physical fitness, firearms qualifying, defensive driving, defensive tactics (PPCT), and first aid.
There are six full-time and 13 part-time police academies approved by the Mississippi BLEOST located within the state, including:
- Harrison County Law Enforcement Training Academy – Gulfport, MS
- Jackson Police Department Training Academy – Jackson, MS
- MS Law Enforcement Officers’ Training Academy – Pearl, MS
- North MS Law Enforcement Training Center – Tupelo, MS
- Southern Regional Public Safety Institute – Camp Shelby, MS
- Columbia Police Department Law Enforcement Training Academy – Columbia, MS
For a full list of approved police training academies in Mississippi, visit the BLEOST website.
Mississippi Police Jobs Outlook
The need for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Mississippi is growing with the state’s population, leading to a projected increase in police employment opportunities of 4.8% from 2016 to 2026.9 About 550 average annual openings for Mississippi police officers are expected due to growth as well as turnover and retirement from current officers.9 The salary for cops in Mississippi averages $35,520 per year.1
Candidates for open law enforcement positions are not typically required to hold a college degree, but earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can make candidates more highly qualified. In addition, many police departments, such as the Gulfport Police Department, require candidates to have earned college credit to earn promotion. You can find open police officer positions and learn more about common requirements on our police jobs board.
Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Mississippi
|City||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 2018.1
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Mississippi: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ms.htm
2. Sperling’s Best Places, Mississippi: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/mississippi
3. Mississippi Highway Patrol: https://www.dps.state.ms.us/highway-patrol/
4. Justica.com, 2013 Mississippi Code: https://law.justia.com/codes/mississippi/2013/title-19/chapter-25/section-19-25-21/
5. DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department: https://www.desotocountyms.gov/223/Sheriffs-Department
6. Harrison County Sheriff’s Office: http://harrisoncountysheriff.com/
7. Jackson Police Department: http://www.jacksonms.gov/index.aspx?nid=196
8. Gulfport Police Department: http://www.gulfport-ms.gov/police/
9. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm