How to Become a Police Officer in New Mexico

New Mexico encompasses everything it means to be in the Southwest: high, dry plains, rugged desert and mountain landscapes, wildlife, Native American culture and history, and Mexican and Native-inspired cuisine. New Mexico is truly The Land of Enchantment, and it is a wonderful place to live and work. Unemployment in the state is 5.9%, below the national average, and job growth is currently positive.1

To be a cop here there are some strict requirements as set by the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board (NMLEAB). This Board sets the minimum requirements for being admitted to the Academy, itself a requirement for certification as a peace officer in the state. There are currently 4,070 law enforcement officers in the state.2

New Mexico Police Officer Requirements

The NMLEAB is responsible for certifying all officers in the state of New Mexico and runs the only training academy in the state. All new recruits hoping to work in law enforcement must first be hired by a police department or sheriff’s office, meet the NMLEAB requirements for the training academy and then complete the academy’s basic program. To be accepted at the academy, new recruits must submit a completed application, which includes:

  • Proof of employment with a law enforcement agency in the state
  • Medical and psychological evaluations
  • Copy of high school diploma, GED, or college degree
  • Proof of US citizenship
  • Copy of driver’s license
  • Proof of any military service records
  • Verification of physical fitness
  • CPR and first aid certification

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, these minimum requirements must be met:

  • Be 21 years or older
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Complete the training academy plus 30 college credit hours or have served honorably in the military for at least two years
  • Have US citizenship
  • Have clean criminal record
  • Have vision correctable to 20/30
  • Have a valid New Mexico driver’s license
  • Have a willingness to take an assignment anywhere in the state

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, each department may hire few or many deputies to take on the responsibilities of protecting and serving. Each county sheriff’s department has its own standards for hiring new deputies, in addition to those set by the NMLEAB 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 Department recruits new deputies who meet the rigorous standards set by the Sheriff. Hopeful new deputies have to apply with the department and must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be a US citizen
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Have vision correctable to 20/30
  • Have a valid New Mexico driver’s license
  • Not have any domestic violence or DWI convictions
  • Not have been dishonorably discharged from the military

Doña Ana County

Doña Ana County is home to the state’s second largest city, Las Cruces, and the sheriff’s office and its deputies police the local communities, patrol with a K-9 unit, investigate crimes, and patrol roads to keep citizens safe. To become a deputy here new recruits must apply with the county and meet the requirements set by NMLEAB to be considered.

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 with its list of requirements 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 offers competitive salaries and benefits to new officer recruits, including a $5,000 hiring bonus, travel reimbursement, and exclusive use of a patrol vehicle after one year on the force.1 New recruits to the Albuquerque Police Department must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be a US citizen
  • Have a valid New Mexico driver’s license
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Have completed 32 college credit hours or served two years in the military
  • Not have any felony convictions or misdemeanor convictions in the last three years
  • Not have been convicted of domestic violence

For more information, check out our comprehensive guide at How to Become a Police Officer in Albuquerque.

Las Cruces

The Las Cruces Police Department strives to keep the citizens of this second-largest city safe and to enforce laws and investigate crimes. The department regularly recruits qualified new candidates to complete basic training and join the force. The minimum requirements include:

  • A minimum age of 19 at the time of application
  • US citizenship
  • A valid driver’s license
  • 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

In addition to the minimal requirements, hopeful new Las Cruces cops must also pass a background investigation, an interview, a medical and psychological examination, and a polygraph examination.

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 cool climate thanks to its higher elevation. The Santa Fe Police Department is always on the lookout for new cadets to hire and send to the NMLEA for training and certification. New recruits to the Santa Fe PD must first pass a physical fitness test and a written test. Once successfully completed, candidates move on to an interview, background check, polygraph examination, a medical, psychological, and drug screening, and finally an interview with the police chief and the selection board.

Police Training Academies in New Mexico

The NMLEAB sets the standards for and runs the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy and its satellite campuses. Participants may be sponsored by a law enforcement agency (which pays the tuition for the academy) or may be self-sponsored. The latter students must pay their own tuition and receive college credits toward a degree in criminal justice. The main campus of the NMLEA 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

New Mexico Police Jobs Outlook

The average annual salary for a New Mexico cop or deputy is $47,260.1 The outlook for new jobs in law enforcement in the state is positive with expected annual growth in positions of 6.6% between now and 2022. This means that there will be an average of 150 new jobs opening up each year for hopeful new recruits to New Mexico law enforcement agencies.4

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

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in New Mexico

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Las Cruces330$46,480
Santa Fe250$50,480

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

1. Sperling’s Best Places, New Mexico: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/new-mexico
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, New Mexico: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nm.htm#33-0000
3. Albuquerque Police Department: http://apdonline.com/
4. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm