How to Become a Police Officer in Washington DC

As the nation’s capital, Washington DC is an exciting city with a lot happening all the time. All of the action happens here when it comes to the federal government, but there are also world-class museums, historic sites, unique cultural events, and plenty of non-governmental areas of the city.

The District of Columbia is patrolled by the members of Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). There are 5,240 officers in this large police force.1 The DC Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) Board is responsible for deciding the minimum standards for selecting and training new candidates for the MPD.

Washington DC Police Officer Requirements

DC’s POST Board is comprised of 11 members, including the city’s mayor. This board is responsible for setting minimum standards for recruits and the requirements for training of those new recruits. The requirements for potential candidates are rigorous. To be considered for a position with the MPD, candidates must:

  • Be a US citizen
  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Have at least 20/100 vision that is correctable to 20/30
  • Pass a polygraph test
  • Pass written and physical fitness tests
  • Pass a medical examination, including a drug screening
  • Pass a psychological screening
  • Exhibit good moral character
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Be prepared to commit to at least two years on the force

Candidates are also required to have either completed 60 college credits, three years of active duty in the military (with an honorable discharge), or five years working for a full-service law enforcement agency. Residency in the city is not required for employment, but consideration is given to those who are within the city limits.

Police Departments in Washington DC

There is just one city police department within the District of Columbia, the Metropolitan Police Department. The MPD is one of the 10 largest police forces in the country with a force of several thousand sworn officers as well as civilian employees.2 Founded in 1861, the MPD prides itself on the use of state-of-the-art technology to solve crimes and community policing to keep neighborhoods and residents safe.

The requirements for candidacy for the MPD are those set by the DC POST. The process of being hired begins with an application and an orientation. Those who are qualified may then take the fitness and written tests. Recruits who successfully pass these tests will then undergo a background investigation, a polygraph test, and medical and psychological examinations. Once approved and offered employment, a new recruit may then attend the academy for basic training.

After training, new officers to the MPD must work for a minimum of three years on basic patrol duties before being advanced to other departments or teams. Opportunities for advancement include positions on the canine unit, the bomb squad, the crime scene investigation unit, the harbor patrol unit, the helicopter branch, and many others.

Police Training Academies in Washington DC

The Metropolitan Police Department Academy trains all new recruits hired to work as officers with the MPD. The basic training program is 28 weeks long and includes firearms training, classroom work, and physical fitness training. Coursework includes learning about arrest laws, criminal law, search and seizure, community policing, traffic regulations, self-defense, advanced first aid, and emergency vehicle operation, among other important topics. New officers must work in the MPD on a probationary basis for 18 months, which includes the 28 weeks of training.

Washington DC Police Jobs Outlook

With the highest concentration of police jobs in the nation reported in 2014, the number of positions available for police officers in the District of Columbia is expected to decline by 5.72% between now and 2022.3,4 This doesn’t mean that there won’t be opportunities for hopeful new candidates, though. The MPD is projected to need 166 new recruits by 2022 to replace retired officers.4 DC is not the cheapest place to live in the US. The cost of living there is 56.10% higher than the national average.5 However, the high average annual salary of $69,590 for law enforcement officers helps to compensate for it.1

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

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Vermont

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary

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

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, District of Columbia: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_dc.htm#33-0000
2. Metropolitan Police Department: https://mpdc.dc.gov/page/about-mpdc
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm
4. District of Columbia Department of Employment Services: http://does.dc.gov/page/labor-statistics
5. Sperling’s Best Places, District of Columbia: http://www.bestplaces.net/state/district_of_columbia