How to Become a Police Officer in Washington DC

As the nation’s capital, Washington DC has a population of over 650,000 and is the 26th most populous city in the US.1,2 The nation’s capital has many attractions and museums that tourists and residents can enjoy. The cost of living is just over 50% higher than other cities in the US, but cops are well compensated; in 2016, they earned an average annual salary of $73,250.3,4 Law enforcement officers will find that Washington DC is an exciting place to begin a new career.

The District of Columbia is patrolled by the members of Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). There are over 4,000 officers in this large police force.5 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. 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 Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC) is one of the top 10 police departments in the US.6 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
  • Have proportionate height and weight, as determined by body fat percentage
  • 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. Once hired, MPDC cops are required to remain employed as a sworn officer with the Department for two years.

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 MDP’s Entry Level Officer Program page.

In 2007, Cathy L. Lanier was confirmed as Chief of Police for the Metropolitan Police Department. Chief Lanier has been with the MPDC for 25 years. She has served as a Commander for the uniform patrol, major narcotics, and vehicular homicide units. Chief Lanier graduated from the FBI Academy. She also has a BA and master’s in management from Johns Hopkins University. Chief Lanier obtained a master’s in national security studies from the Naval Postgraduate School.

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.5 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 MPDC has six bureaus: patrol services, homeland security, corporate support, strategic services, investigative services, and internal affairs bureau. The Department also has numerous specialized units that cops can work in, some of which include:

  • Air support unit
  • Asian liaison unit
  • Civil rights and force investigations branch
  • Deaf and hard of hearing unit
  • Financial crimes and fraud unit
  • Gay and lesbian unit
  • Harbor patrol
  • Internal affairs bureau
  • La Unidad de Enlace latino
  • Major case victims unit
  • Youth investigations branch

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 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 must work in the MPD on a probationary basis for 18 months, which includes the 28 weeks of training at the academy.

Washington DC Police Jobs Outlook

With the highest concentration of police jobs in the nation reported in 2016, the number of positions available for police officers in the District of Columbia is expected to decline by 5.72% between the years of 2012 and 2022.6,8 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, and new officers start with a salary of $55,362 per year.8,5 After 25 years with the department, an officer can earn as much as $98,572 per year.5 DC is not the cheapest place to live in the US; the cost of living there is 58.70% higher than the national average.3 However, the high average annual salary of $73,250 for law enforcement officers in DC helps to compensate for it.4

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

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Washington DC

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2016.9

1. US Census Bureau, District of Columbia: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/dc/PST045217
2. National League of Cities, The 30 Most Populous Cities: https://www.nlc.org/the-30-most-populous-cities
3. Sperling’s Best Places, District of Columbia: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/district_of_columbia
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2016 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, District of Columbia: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_dc.htm#33-0000
5. Washington DC Government, Metropolitan Police Department: https://mpdc.dc.gov/page/about-mpdc
6. Metropolitan Police Department: https://mpdc.dc.gov/page/about-mpdc
7. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm
8. District of Columbia Department of Employment Services: https://does.dc.gov/page/labor-statistics
9. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2016 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_47900.htm