How to Become a Police Officer in Washington DC
Washington, DC is the nation’s capital and has a population of over 670,000 people.1 While the DC metro has a higher crime rate than similarly-sized metros, its violent crime rate is lower than the national average.2 In fact, although DC’s population has grown by 18% in recent years, its violent and property crime rates have been decreasing.1,2 The District of Columbia is patrolled by the police officers of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), which is one of the 10 largest municipal PDs in the US.3 There are over 3,000 sworn officers and approximately 600 civilians dedicated to this large police force.3 Men and women wishing to become a part of the Metropolitan Police Department will find information on the application, selection, and training process below.
Washington DC Police Officer Requirements
The DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has rigorous requirements for potential recruits. 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
- Have proportionate height and weight, as determined by body fat percentage
- Have either completed 60 college credits, OR three years of active duty in the military (with an honorable discharge), OR five years working for a full-service law enforcement agency*
- Exhibit good moral character
- Have a valid driver’s license
- Agree to commit to at least two years on the force; recruits who voluntarily separate before two years of service may be responsible for their cost of training
While residency in DC is not required, residents do receive preference points in the hiring process. Preference is also given to military veterans.
The process of being hired as an MPD officer begins with completing a job interest card and attending orientation. During the orientation, known as the MPD Prospect Day, candidates will take the physical ability test and initial screenings, followed by the written test. 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. Once hired, MPDC cops are required to remain employed as sworn officers with the department for two years. Officers who leave before two years have elapsed may be required to reimburse the department for their training.
For more information about becoming a law enforcement officer in a city like Washington DC, check out 10 Steps to Becoming a Police Officer on our home page. For more recruitiment information, visit MPD’s Entry Level Officer Program page.
Maurice T. Turner Jr. Metropolitan Police Academy
The Maurice T. Turner Jr. Metropolitan Police Academy trains all new recruits hired to work as officers with the MPD. The academy has five branches: academic services, continuing education, specialized training, firearms, and media production brand. 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 work in the MPD on a probationary basis for 18 months, which includes the 28 weeks of training at the academy.
Metropolitan Police Department Information
The DC Metropolitan Police Department is one of the 10 largest police forces in the country.3 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. In 2017, the department answered 636,653 calls for service with an average response time of six minutes and 41 seconds.3
The MPD has six bureaus: patrol services, homeland security, corporate support, strategic services, investigative services, and internal affairs bureau. Officers begin their service working in patrol and are assigned to one of the city’s 56 Patrol Service Areas (PSAs). New officers to the MPD must work for a minimum of three years in 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.
Between 2001 and 2015, the MPD worked with the Department of Justice under a voluntary Memorandum of Understanding to reduce the number and severity of use of force incidents involving MPD police.3 In 2015, the department was found compliant in reducing the most serious types of force. However, in 2016 and 2017 use of force incidents increased; the MPD has said it is reviewing these reports and is still committed to managing the use of force and upholding constitutional policing practices.4
The Washington, DC police department partners with other agencies and the community in order to promote safe neighborhoods for residents and visitors. Uniquely for a police department and due to its jurisdiction over many types of incidents in the nation’s capital, the MPD partners with 32 different federal law enforcement agencies under agreements outlining cooperative crime prevention strategies, interagency assistance, jurisdictions for patrol and other police activities, and powers of arrest.3
MPD community-oriented programs include the Junior Police Academy, the STARS Teen Camp, the Junior Police Academy, and the Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls Clubs. The MPD also offers graduates of DC high schools a unique pathway to police careers through the Police Cadet Corps. This program actively recruits prospective officers who are between the ages of 17 and 24. Accepted recruits work as uniformed civilians while they attend the University of the District of Columbia. The department provides funding for up to 60 college credit hours for these recruits in order to help them meet the MPD college experience hiring requirement as they gain experience working part-time in rotating assignments that support the MPD’s daily operations. To learn more about these and other programs, visit the MPD website.
Department Contact Information
Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook
The starting salary for Washington, DC police officers is $58,163 per year.3 Housing assistance to offset the high cost of living in DC may be available. Following completion of the 18-month probationary period, the base salary rises to $63,636 per year.3 After 25 years with the department, a patrol officer can earn as much as $106,742 per year.3
Pay incentives, including a $1,300 per year foreign language fluency incentive, can add to an officer’s base pay.3 MPDC officers are eligible to retire after 25 years of service.3 Other benefits include tuition reimbursement, health and life insurance, and a take-home vehicle.
On average, Washington DC cops earn an annual salary of $75,360.5 The number of positions available for police officers in the District of Columbia is expected to increase by 2.2% through 2026, reflecting an estimate of 130 new police positions created during that timeframe.6 For more information about current law enforcement openings, take a look at our police jobs page.
Cities and Police Departments Near Washington DC
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are about 5,450 police and sheriff’s patrol officers employed across the DC metro area, which excludes federal police and those working for non-municipal agencies.5 In addition to opportunities with the metro DC PD, there are various suburbs and nearby cities where aspiring police can launch their careers. The table below describes police employment and crime data for selected cities in the DC metro.
|City||Force Name/Abbreviation||City Population7||Police Dept. Total Employees8||Sworn Officers8||Civilian Staff8||Violent Crime Rate per 1,000 People9||Property Crime Rate per 1,000 People9|
|Alexandria, VA||Alexandria Police Department (APD)||160,035||409||317||92||0.18||1.75|
|Arlington, VA||Arlington County Police Department (ACPD)||234,965||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Bethesda/Montgomery County, MD||Montgomery County Police Department||1,058,810||2,103||1,301||802||N/A||N/A|
|Bowie, MD||Bowie Police Department (BPD)||58,859||80||63||17||0.09||1.28|
|Washington DC||Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPD)||702,455||4,352||3,753||599||1.1||4.51|
- DC Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) Board: The DC POST is responsible for deciding the minimum standards for selecting and training new candidates for the MPD, as well as ongoing in-service training for experienced officers.
- DC Police Union: The DC Police Union is the bargaining unit for DC area police officers.
1. Sperling’s Best Places, District of Columbia: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/district_of_columbia
2. US News & World Report Best Places to Live, Washington, DC: https://realestate.usnews.com/places/district-of-columbia/washington/crime
3. Metropolitan Police Department: https://mpdc.dc.gov/
4. The Washington Post, “Study Finds DC Police Using More Force,” 23 Jan. 2018: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/report-finds-dc-police-using-more-force/2018/01/23/a858451e-0066-11e8-8acf-ad2991367d9d_story.html?utm_term=.d95691626418
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, District of Columbia: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_dc.htm#33-0000
6. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm
7. US Census Bureau, QuickFacts: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219
8. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Full-time Law Enforcement Employees by State by City: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-26/table-26.xls/view
9. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by State by City: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-6/table-6.xls/view