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How to Become a Police Officer in Mississippi

According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are 342 law enforcement agencies in Mississippi employing over 7,700 sworn personnel and 12,400 total personnel overall.1 The cost of living in Mississippi is 10.9% lower than the US average, and the state had moderate but steady population growth of 4.32% between 2000 and 2014.2 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. This governing body provides police officer requirements and guidelines in its regularly updated Professional Certification Policy and Procedures Manual.

The minimum requirements for prospective Mississippi officers are outlined by BLEOST.

Nationality, Age, and Education

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

Required Examinations

  • Candidates must have good mental and physical health, evidenced by a physician’s exam.
  • During training, candidate officers must pass exams relating to academic content, firearms qualifying, defensive driving, and defensive tactics, among other topics.

Background Clearance

Those who wish to become a Mississippi police officer must pass a background clearance investigation (the Law Enforcement Application for Certification and Background Investigation Review) to prove good moral character. Felony or misdemeanor convictions may disqualify a candidate from serving, depending on the offense. Candidates must be prepared to:

  • Submit fingerprints and an information release form for the background check to be completed
  • Explain any traffic offenses that resulted in a fine of more than $100
  • List and explain all traffic offenses if four or more traffic offenses occurred in the 24 months preceding the candidate’s application

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.

Mississippi Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol promotes safety and upholds the enforcement of state laws on state and federal roadways. With over 2.6 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 As of 2008, the most recent year for which data was available, there were 594 sworn personnel working for the department.1

Minimum requirements for state troopers in Mississippi are set by law and state that candidates must:

  • Be a citizen of the US
  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Hold a high school diploma or GED
  • Have an associate degree or 60 credit hours from an accredited college or university with at least a 2.0 GPA, or an equivalent combination of education and law enforcement or military experience

Approved candidates will undertake the Highway Safety Patrol training program, which includes academic instruction and rigorous physical training.

Mississippi Sheriff Deputy Requirements

There are 82 county sheriff’s departments in Mississippi which may recruit for sheriff’s deputies.1 Approximately 1,948 sworn officers work in sheriff’s departments statewide.1 The number of sheriff’s deputies working in each county is based on population and set by law. For example, those 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 that candidates must:

  • Meet the same basic requirements as all other law enforcement officers in the state
  • 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

DeSoto County
The DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department consists of several divisions, including a 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.

Harrison County
The Sheriff’s Office of Harrison County is currently led by Sheriff Melvin Brisolara, who possesses over twenty years of experience in law enforcement and leadership. The Harrison County Sheriff’s three major divisions work together 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.

Police Departments in Mississippi

There are 220 local police departments deploying approximately 4,000 sworn personnel in Mississippi.1 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
Jackson is the largest city in Mississippi by population as well as the state capitol. Current Jackson Police Department Chief of Police Lee Vance has been working for the Jackson PD for over 27 years and has particular responsibility for the patrol operations and major investigations divisions. As in other large police departments, each division is divided into precincts by geographic area and response specialty. Prospective recruits must meet state standards for Mississippi cops and may not have felonies or domestic violence convictions on their records.

Gulfport
The Gulfport Police Department consists of over 200 sworn officers and 92 civilian support staff.7 Current Chief of Police Leonard Papania earned a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice at University of Southern Mississippi, and has been serving with the Gulfport PD since 1991. 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.

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, though in most cases recruits will complete a program prior to assignment. Recruits must pass each of the six major components of training — academics, physical fitness, firearms qualifying, defensive driving, defensive tactics (PPCT), and first aid — with the minimum averages set by the Mississippi BLEOST.

There are six full-time and 13 part-time police academies approved by the Mississippi BLEOST located within the state:

  • 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, review the BLEOST Professional Certification Policy and Procedures Manual.

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 10.2% from 2012 to 2022.8 Notably, this growth rate exceeds the national anticipated employment growth for police and detectives in the US as a whole, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected at 5% from 2012 to 2022.9 About 170 average annual openings for those wishing to become a Mississippi police officer are expected due to growth as well as turnover and retirement from current officers.8 Even though the salary for cops in Mississippi only average $32,740 per year, the abundant employment opportunities and low cost of living there still makes the state a good place for prospective law enforcement personnel.10

Candidates for these open positions are not typically required to hold a college degree, but earning an associate 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

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Gulfport-Biloxi700$34,610
Hattiesburg310$35,080
Jackson1,260$33,480

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.

References:
1. Bureau of Justice, Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, 2008: https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/csllea08.pdf
2. Sperling’s Best Places, Mississippi: http://www.bestplaces.net/state/mississippi
3. Department of Public Safety, State of Mississippi 2014 Highway Safety Plan: https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/ms_fy14hsp.pdf
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: http://www.desotocountyms.gov/223/Sheriffs-Department
6. Harrison County Sheriff’s Office: http://harrisoncountysheriff.com/
7. Gulfport Police Department: http://www.gulfport-ms.gov/police/
8. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm
9. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Police and Detectives: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm
10. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Mississippi: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ms.htm