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How to Become a Police Officer in Nebraska

The cost of living in Nebraska is 5.5% lower than the national average and the state’s population has grown by 11% since the year 2000.1 With these kinds of statistics, it’s little wonder that new recruits to law enforcement are eager to work in this midwestern state. Future cops in Nebraska have to meet the minimum standards for law enforcement certification as set by PSAC, Nebraska’s Police Standards Advisory Council. Currently, there are an estimated 3,390 cops and sheriff’s deputies enjoying a rewarding career in the state.2 Continue reading to learn more about what it takes to become a police officer in Nebraska.

Nebraska Police Officer Requirements

PSAC is a committee of the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice and it is responsible for setting the standards for certifying peace officers in Nebraska. To be hired and to attend an approved police academy, recruits must:

  • Be a minimum age of 21 before completing training
  • Have US citizenship
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Possess a valid Nebraska driver’s license
  • Have a minimum of an 11th grade reading and writing level
  • Have good moral character as determined by a background check

Required Examinations

In addition to taking an exam that measures applicants’ reading and writing levels, new recruits must also pass a physical fitness test and meet certain entrance standards before being admitted to a police training program. This includes a vertical jump, sit-ups, a 300-meter sprint, push-ups, and a 1.5-mile run. Recruits must pass a number of exams while in the police academy and will also need to pass comprehensive physical and academic exams in order to graduate and become sworn officers.

Hopeful new recruits are encouraged to get an offer of employment from a state law enforcement agency before attending the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center (NLETC). It is possible to attend and earn a diploma as a non-sworn officer from the NLETC without first being hired, but spaces are limited and preference is given to recruits who have already been hired. Additionally, non-sponsored applicants are responsible for the cost of their training.

“Law enforcement is not for everyone. It’s both a physically and mentally challenging profession. We’re looking for candidates who have prepared themselves for a career where honesty and integrity are job one. Communication skills are essential to success in this field. Police work is people work.” -Robert S. Lausten, Chief of Police, La Vista Police Department

Nebraska Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) hires troopers to work in the field, patrol state highways, and investigate crimes and traffic accidents. New recruits attend a specialized training academy, the Nebraska State Patrol Training Academy, which is located on the same campus as the NLETC. To be hired and to attend the academy, hopeful new troopers must meet all of the PSAC standards and:

  • Not have serious or frequent traffic convictions
  • Not have tattoos, piercings, or other body art visible while in uniform
  • Not have used marijuana within the last two years
  • Not have used other illicit drugs within the last five years
  • Not have ever sold, produced, or transported illegal drugs

After graduating from the training academy, Nebraska State Patrol troopers earn a starting hourly wage of $22.16.3

Nebraska Sheriff Deputy Requirements

Sheriff’s deputies in Nebraska counties play many roles in keeping residents safe, from guarding prisoners to patrolling county roads and investigating crimes. Each county has its own sheriff’s office and its own procedure and standards for hiring new deputies. At a minimum, new recruits must meet the PSAC standards and, once hired, complete the basic law enforcement training program at the NLETC.

Douglas County

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) is responsible for serving and protecting the residents of Douglas County, which includes the state’s largest city, Omaha. Deputy sheriffs with the office are responsible for patrolling in cruisers, investigating crimes, booking and guarding prisoners, serving civil papers, providing courtroom security, and many other important duties. In order to be considered for a position as a deputy, recruits must meet PSAC standards, register as a candidate with the DCSO’s human resources consultants, and pass the initial screening test (the COPS exam, which is held twice per year).

Lancaster County

The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) is a full-service law enforcement agency with deputies who are responsible for patrolling, enforcing the law, and keeping residents safe in rural areas, towns, and villages. The starting salary for a Lancaster deputy is $44,524 per year.4 LCSO recruits must meet the PSAC standards and also must:

  • Not have been dishonorably discharged from the military
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English fluently
  • Have normal hearing and sense of smell
  • Have vision correctable to 20/30
“1. Make sure to keep your criminal history and your social media history clean and appropriate.
2. Stay in good to excellent physical shape.
3. Do your best at any educational path that you choose to take. Get the best grades that you are able.
4. Reach out and do the “extra.” Do volunteer activities, internships, and ride-alongs. Know current events. Know something about the agency that you are applying to.
5. Above all, polish and hone your communication skills. In our testing here, I would say that if a candidate can pass all other requirements and is at least somewhat above average in the other areas, oral interviews are the most important thing that is looked at when ranking candidates. I feel you should and MUST practice the art and science of oral interviews.”
-Chief Edward F. Mahon, South Sioux City Police Department.

Police Departments in Nebraska

Nebraska is a largely rural state, but most towns, even small towns, have a local police department. In addition to these rural departments, the larger cities of Omaha and Lincoln and their suburbs have sizable police forces that are always looking for qualified and dedicated recruits to join their ranks. Those hoping to become officers must meet minimum state standards and those set by the hiring police department.

Kearney

The home of the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kearney is also known for being the sandhill crane capital of the world due to its position on crane migration routes. To serve the approximately 35,000 residents of Kearney, the Kearney Police Department (KPD) employs 57 sworn officers and 14 non-sworn support staff.5 The KPD is continually looking for well-qualified professionals to join its team.

Lincoln

Lincoln is the capital of Nebraska and is also the state’s second-largest city. The Lincoln Police Department is dedicated to serving and protecting the residents of the city and hires only the most qualified recruits to join the team, using the state’s PSAC requirements for sworn officers as guidelines. To find the best, the department begins the hiring process with a written test. Those who pass the test can then take the physical fitness test. With both completed successfully, candidates must then pass an oral interview. The best possible recruits are then put through medical, polygraph, psychological, and drug tests and are subjected to an extensive background check. The starting salary for Lincoln police officers is $53,944 per year.6

Omaha

Omaha is the largest city in Nebraska, and the Omaha Police Department (OPD) maintains a staff of around 1,000 sworn officers from diverse backgrounds to meet the city’s needs.7 The qualifying requirements for being hired by the OPD are the same as those listed by PSAC. To be considered, new recruits must first pass a written test and then a physical fitness test. Successful candidates then undergo a background investigation. If offered a position on the force, new recruits must attend NLETC and go through specialized training provided by the OPD.

Visit our Omaha page for more information on police requirements in that city

“A career in law enforcement has many challenges, but the rewards will outweigh those challenges. We are looking for candidates who are able to meet our core values of Duty, Honor, and Integrity, both professionally and personally. Our goal is to hire for the right fit within our community and organization while providing high-quality training, equipment, and support to become a professional police officer. The process is difficult and demanding and will challenge most. Preparation, communication, and self-confidence are key to reaching your goals, I can guarantee you the effort is worth it!” -Bryan D. Waugh, Chief of Police, Kearney Police Department

Police Training Academies in Nebraska

The Nebraska Police Standards Advisory Council (PSAC) runs a main campus for basic law enforcement training, the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center (NLETC), which is located in Grand Island. The training academy for new troopers hired by the Nebraska State Patrol is also situated on the NLETC campus in Grand Island. Individual agencies may require further training for their new recruits beyond the basic academy, or run their own basic academies. Police training academies in Nebraska include:

  • Lincoln Police Academy – Lincoln, NE
  • Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center – Grand Island, NE
  • Omaha Police Academy – Omaha, NE
  • Sarpy-Douglas Law Enforcement Academy – La Vista, NE

For more information about police training in Nebraska, visit the PSAC website.

Nebraska Police Jobs Outlook

Nebraska police officers and sheriff’s deputies earn, on average, $57,090 per year.2 The outlook for new jobs in law enforcement in Nebraska is good, with the number of positions expected to grow by 5.6% through 2026.8 An average of 210 average annual openings are expected in Nebraska law enforcement agencies during this time period, comprised of both new openings and replacements.8

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

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Nebraska

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Lincoln450$64,920
Omaha-Council Bluffs NE-IA1,650$63,770
Sioux City IA-NE310$55,220

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 2018.2

References:
1. Sperling’s Best Places, Nebraska: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/nebraska
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Nebraska: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ne.htm
3. Nebraska State Patrol: https://statepatrol.nebraska.gov/
4. Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.lancaster.ne.gov/242/Salary-Benefits
5. Kearney Police Department: https://cityofkearney.org/625/Police-Department
6. Lincoln Police Department: https://www.lincoln.ne.gov/City/Departments/Police
7. Omaha Police Department: https://police.cityofomaha.org/
8. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm