How to Become a Police Officer in New Mexico

    The state of New Mexico is known as The Land of Enchantment, and it can be a great place to live and work. Unemployment in the state is 4.9% and the state has seen significant population growth of 15% over the past two decades.1 There are currently 4,540 law enforcement officers in New Mexico.2 Prospective police officers in New Mexico must meet the requirements set by the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board (NMLEA). Continue reading to learn more about what it takes to become a police officer in New Mexico.

    New Mexico Police Officer Requirements

    The NMLEA is responsible for certifying all law enforcement officers in the state of New Mexico and oversees police training academies in the state. Those hoping to work in law enforcement must meet the NMLEA requirements for the training academy, be hired by a police department or sheriff’s office, and then complete the police academy. Note that individual law enforcement agencies are free to set requirements above the state minimums. To meet NMLEA requirements, candidates must:

    • Be a US citizen
    • Be at least 18 years of age
    • Have a high school diploma or GED
    • Have a valid driver’s license
    • Have any felony convictions or lesser disqualifying charges
    • Be of good moral character

    Required Exams

    The NMLEA-required physical fitness test that candidates must take during the hiring process evaluates aerobic and anaerobic fitness, endurance, upper and lower body strength, and agility. Candidates must post qualifying scores to enter the police academy and must also meet exit standards on the same tests to graduate and become certified. Candidates will also undergo a medical examination and an evaluation by a certified psychologist as well as a thorough background investigation.

    “I have four musts when it comes to law enforcement. They are what guide us daily.

    • If he or she can do it, so can you. Never quit!
    • Once you become an officer, you live in a glass house. Your community watches you and knows what you are about, both on and off duty. Always conduct yourself accordingly.
    • Stay away from negativity and bad influences. This prolongs your career in law enforcement.
    • ALWAYS utilize your chain of command. That is why there is a rank structure. Without the chain of command, the functionality of a law enforcement agency will crumble.

    To prepare one’s self to become a law enforcement officer, they must change their lifestyle if it is not in accordance with abiding by rules and regulations or moral standards. The “Glass House” concept is a must.” – Police Chief David Trujillo, Taos Police Department

    New Mexico Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

    The officers of the New Mexico State Police (NMSP) perform a number of duties in serving the residents of New Mexico, including investigating crimes and traffic accidents, patrolling the highways, working with K-9s to find narcotics, finding and defusing bombs, and more. To become a state police officer, candidates must meet state requirements and:

    • Be 21 years or older
    • Have 60 college credit hours OR complete the training academy plus 30 college credit hours in order to accrue 60 college credit hours within two years of graduating from the police academy OR have served honorably in the military for at least two years OR have three years of law enforcement experience as a sworn officer
    • Have vision correctable to 20/30
    • Be willing to take an assignment anywhere in the state

    New Mexico State Police recruits earn $16 an hour while in training and begin at $23.48 per hour in patrol.3 The NMSP also offers college incentive pay, currently at $100 per month for bachelor’s degree holders and $125 per month for master’s degree holders, as well as other types of incentive pay based on posts and duty hazards.3

    New Mexico Sheriff Deputy Requirements

    All counties in New Mexico have a sheriff’s department that patrols and protects the residents of the county. Depending on the size of the county, a department may hire few or many deputies to take on the responsibilities of the sheriff’s office, which include rural patrol, overseeing evictions and tax sales, and more. Each county sheriff’s department has its own standards for hiring new deputies in addition to those set by the NMLEA for law enforcement certification.

    Bernalillo County

    Bernalillo County is the most populous county in New Mexico and includes the major metropolis of Albuquerque. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) recruits new deputies who meet the rigorous standards set by the sheriff. Hopeful new deputies have to meet state standards and must:

    • Not have any domestic violence or DWI convictions
    • Have a good driving history, particularly in the past three years
    • Have, or obtain within 30 days of hire, a New Mexico driver’s license
    • Not have used any illegal drugs within the past three years and no hard drugs within the past five years, and not have any pattern of illegal drug use at any time
    • Have an acceptable financial history
    • Not have been dishonorably discharged from the military

    In addition to the exams required for all police officers in New Mexico, prospective Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies must take a qualifying written exam, the National Police Officer Selection Test. While in training, BCSO cadets earn $17.75 per hour or $36,920 per year, which rises to $22.41 per hour or $46,615 per year upon graduation and swearing in as a deputy 2nd class.4 The BCSO also offers generous academic incentives as well as longevity pay.

    Doña Ana County

    Doña Ana County is home to the state’s second largest city, Las Cruces, and the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office (DACSO) and its deputies police the local communities, patrol with a K-9 unit, investigate crimes, and patrol roads to keep citizens safe. The DACSO has several specialty units including a special response team and a bomb squad. To become a deputy here new recruits must be at least 21 years of age, apply with the county, and meet the requirements set by NMLEA.

    “Focus on three things and these things will always be with you. First, get a good education. This will help you no matter what profession you eventually decide on and it is something no one can ever take from you. Second, character counts! Be a good person and avoid all the pitfalls from peer pressure. Be a hard worker, not a slacker. Don’t do drugs and don’t steal. Poor decisions that reflect on your character are hard to overcome. Be the person you know you can be and, again, no one can ever take that away from you. Finally, make a difference. Do charity work, volunteer to help someone in need, find a niche that others aren’t filling and be the reason the world is a better place. These three things will prepare you for law enforcement or whatever you decide to do!” – Steve Hebbe, Chief of Police, Farmington Police Department

    Police Departments in New Mexico

    The state of New Mexico is home to a range of cities, suburbs, and small towns, from the big city of Albuquerque to tiny rural and desert towns. Each municipality has its own police department and its own process for recruiting new officers. To work as a cop in one of these departments, new recruits must go through the hiring process, be offered employment, and then complete the basic training academy program.


    Albuquerque is New Mexico’s largest city and an exciting place to work in law enforcement. The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) offers competitive salaries and benefits to new officer recruits, including a hiring bonus, travel reimbursement, and exclusive use of a patrol vehicle after one year on the force.5 In addition to meeting state requirements, recruits to the Albuquerque Police Department must:

    • Be at least 21 years old
    • Have completed 32 college credit hours OR served two years in the military OR meet another of the department’s waiver requirements
    • Not have any felony convictions at any time nor any misdemeanor convictions in the last three years
    • Not have used any misdemeanor drug in the past three years nor any felony drug in the last five years
    • Not have been convicted of domestic violence
    • Have an acceptable financial and employment history

    The APD particularly favors candidates who meet the requirements and are already knowledgeable about writing reports; federal, state, and local laws; and policing techniques. Learn more about requirements for city cops on our Albuquerque page.

    Las Cruces

    The Las Cruces Police Department (LCPD) strives to keep the citizens of the second-largest city in New Mexico safe and to enforce laws and investigate crimes. The department regularly recruits qualified new candidates to complete basic training and join the force. The requirements, in addition to state requirements, include:

    • A minimum age of 19 at the time of application
    • No misdemeanor convictions within the last three years
    • No felony convictions or domestic violence convictions
    • No drug use in the last three years or history of transporting illegal drugs
    • No dishonorable discharge from the military

    Police officer trainees with the LCPD earn $17.83 per hour, which is raised to $20.99 per hour in the second year of service.6

    Santa Fe

    Santa Fe is one of the most scenic and historic of New Mexico’s cities. It is a top tourist stop and has a cooler climate than comparable New Mexico cities thanks to its higher elevation. The Santa Fe Police Department (SFPD) is always on the lookout for well-qualified recruits. Prospective recruits to the Santa Fe PD must:

    • Meet the state’s minimum requirements for police officers
    • Have a good driving record and a New Mexico Class D license
    • Be at least 21 years of age
    • Not have any body modifications that would be visible while in uniform, nor explicit or inappropriate tattoos, nor any tattoos on the hands, neck, face, or head
    • Establish residency in New Mexico within six months of hire

    SFPD recruits earn a starting salary of $19.11 per hour and receive regular pay increases; the SFPD also offers college incentive pay, longevity increases, and other incentives such as bilingual pay.7

    “Remember this is a profession. Not a job.
    Remember to have compassion. We are still human beings, dealing with other human beings.
    Remember anyone can be touched. Don’t allow yourself to feel invincible.
    Remember fear keeps you sharp.
    Remember strong officers, speak about their emotions.
    Remember a strong home life, breeds a strong work life.
    Take care of your families, more than you take care of the strangers at work.
    Remember you see the devil’s actions every day, have faith in God to deal with it.
    ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men/women to do nothing.’ – Edmund Burke.” – Roger P. Jimenez, Interim Chief of Police, Espanola Police Department

    Police Training Academies in New Mexico

    The NMLEA sets the standards for and runs the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy and its satellite campuses. The main NMLEA police academy campus is in Santa Fe and the satellites are:

    • Albuquerque Police Department Academy – Albuquerque, NM
    • Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department Regional Training Academy – Albuquerque, NM
    • Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office Academy – Las Cruces, NM
    • Las Cruces Police Department Training Academy – Las Cruces, NM
    • New Mexico State Police Training and Recruiting Bureau – Santa Fe, NM
    • San Juan County Criminal Justice Authority – Farmington, NM
    • Southeastern New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy – Hobbs, NM
    • Western New Mexico University Police Academy – Silver City, NM

    For more information on police training academies in New Mexico, visit the NMLEA website.

    “Many police applicants are disqualified from the hiring process due to being less than truthful. Many applicants are afraid to admit to things they have done in their past because they have a mistaken belief that police applicants must have a spotless past. The most common items applicants either diminish or omit are related to experimentation with drugs or infractions of the law. I urge all applicants to be truthful on all parts of the testing/hiring process.” – Chief John Ortolano, Hobbs Police Department

    New Mexico Police Jobs Outlook

    The average annual salary for New Mexico police and sheriff’s patrol officers is $52,320.2 The outlook for new jobs in law enforcement in the state is positive with expected jobs growth of 3.6% through 2026.8 This means that there will be an average of 300 new jobs opening up each year for hopeful new recruits to New Mexico law enforcement agencies.8

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

    Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in New Mexico

    CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
    Las Cruces480$50,680
    Santa Fe310$53,780

    Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 2018.2

    1. Sperling’s Best Places, New Mexico: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/new-mexico
    2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, New Mexico: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nm.htm
    3. New Mexico State Police: https://www.joinnmsp.com/benefits-and-pay/
    4. Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.bernco.gov/bernalillo-county-sheriff/
    5. Albuquerque Police Department: https://www.apdonline.com/
    6. Las Cruces Police Department: https://www.lascruces.gov/2589/Police
    7. Sante Fe Police Department: https://santafenm.gov/police
    8. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm