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How to Become a Police Officer in Wisconsin

Wisconsin currently employs over 13,700 sworn police and patrol officers who help to keep its cities protected against violence and crime, overseeing nearly 6 million residents of the state.1 Providing such a large number of police and law officials helps maintain control while also providing numerous opportunities for those seeking a career within the law enforcement career field.

There are a number of requirements set forth for those who wish to pursue a law enforcement career in Wisconsin. The state has a set standard of requirements, while each city and sheriff’s office has additional criteria that should be reviewed before applying for a position. Those applicants with a criminal justice background or associate’s degree are more often favored over those who only meet the minimal requirements for the position.

Wisconsin Police Officer Requirements

The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board (LESB) of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Training and Standards Bureau, provides detailed information regarding the training and certification procedures required by the state for law enforcement personnel. Those wishing to become a part of the force are selected based on their abilities and willingness to protect and serve the residents of the state of Wisconsin. Their selection process is highly selective to ensure that those accepted are prepared to serve and provide for the residents of Wisconsin in the most professional manner.

In terms of education and background requirements, the terms are fairly similar to those within other states. A current high school diploma or GED is required, and it is not uncommon for the cities in Wisconsin to ask for some college experience or a degree in criminal justice or other major.

The Wisconsin LESB requires that candidates:

  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Have a valid Wisconsin driver’s license
  • Possess a two-year associate degree, or 60 credit hours from a technical school or other law enforcement major (within five years of employment)
  • Have never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony
  • Are at least 18 years of age
  • Undergo a thorough background check and fingerprinting
  • Pass a physical examination from a licensed physician regarding physical fitness levels
  • Pass a psychological examination by a licensed psychiatrist

For additional information regarding past charges that can disqualify an individual, visit the City of Milwaukee Police website.

“While policing is a dangerous occupation, it is not as dangerous as many people think. The incidence of fatal injuries for police is much lower than for other professions, including loggers, fishers, roofers, and airline pilots.” – David Couper, Former Police Chief of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The Wisconsin State Patrol is dedicated to hiring recruits who are capable of keeping the state’s roads safe and providing compassionate and caring services to the residents. The Wisconsin Trooper and State Patrol began in 1939, and has since reorganized to provide better services for residents.

Those who wish to become a state trooper in Wisconsin will have to meet many requirements that are similar to the city and local police departments, such as being at least 21 years of age by the time of hire, holding a GED or high school diploma and having a college background or degree, preferably in the criminal justice field. Those who have served in the military may receive credit waiving the college requirement needed to join this force.

Candidates applying for the positions listed do not need to be a citizen of the United States, but do have to have official documentation authorizing them to work in the country (Form I-9) from the Department of Homeland Security, US Citizenship and Immigration Services. An extensive background investigation will also be performed, along with a pre-employment polygraph, physical fitness tests and examinations from licensed psychologists, regardless of age, sex or nationality.

Wisconsin Sheriff’s Deputy Requirements

Wisconsin currently has a sheriff for each of the 72 counties in the state. Anyone who applies to become a sheriff’s deputy will encounter similar requirements to those of the trooper and local police officer. Recruits must meet the required age of 21, possess the minimum educational requirements and pass a variety of tests.

Milwaukee County

Milwaukee is the largest city in the state of Wisconsin, and houses the largest sheriff’s department in the state. The current sheriff for the county is David A. Clarke Jr, a 26-year veteran of the Milwaukee County Sheriff Department.

If applying for a position with the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department, new applicants must meet the following requirements. They should:

  • Be 21 years of age or older
  • Possess a high school diploma or GED certificate
  • Be a citizen of the United States
  • Pass the physical, written and medical examinations
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Pass an integrity review after passing a psychological exam
  • Pass a polygraph and extensive background check

Dane County

With over 550 sheriffs in Dane County, this is the largest law enforcement agency in Wisconsin. The current sheriff is David J. Mahoney, who oversees each department and officers within the Dane County law enforcement agency. Sheriff’s deputy recruits for Dane County must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Be a citizen of the United States
  • Possess a valid driver’s license for the state of Wisconsin
  • Be able to pass a physical and psychological test
  • Have a clean past history

Police Departments in Wisconsin

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin currently employs over 11,000 law enforcement officials to protect and serve nearly 6 million residents throughout the state of Wisconsin.2

Each individual department in the law enforcement field has its its own set standards for hiring requirements. However, each applicant has to also adhere to the state law enforcement requirements set forth by the Division of Law Enforcement Services for Wisconsin, as discussed earlier.

Madison

The Madison Police Department is currently overseen by the Madison Chief of Police, Michael C. Koval. Tom Snyder, the Captain of Training, seeks out recruits for the large police force team in the city of Madison. The requirements for becoming a part of the team include being over the age of 21 by the time of placement and being a citizen of the United States. Applicants must also posses a high school diploma or equivalent, and pass all written and physical tests during the training period. At the end of the training period, a certification test is provided and this test must be passed to be eligible.

Milwaukee

Milwaukee is home to one of the largest police forces in Wisconsin, with the Milwaukee Police Department currently employing over 2,000 sworn police officers. Under the command of Chief Edward A. Flynn, they work to provide a safer, higher quality of life for the residents of Milwaukee. Most all of Wisconsin’s police departments have the same stipulations for becoming a part of the force. Applicants are required to be 21 years of age by the time of hire and be a US citizen.

Further education requirements state that all recruits must have completed an associate’s degree, or equivalent college credit hours, by the fifth year of employment.

Milwaukee Police Department’s mission: “In partnership with the community, we will create and maintain neighborhoods capable of sustaining civic life. We commit to reducing the levels of crime, fear, and disorder through community-based, problem-oriented, and data-driven policing.”

For more information about the MPD, check out our comprehensive guide How to Become a Police Officer in Milwaukee.

Police Training Academies in Wisconsin

Once the initial requirements for becoming a Wisconsin law official are met and the required entrance exams have been passed, recruits must attend and complete a training program at one of the Wisconsin-approved training academies.

Some Wisconsin LESB basic training academies include:

  • Blackhawk Technical College Police Academy – Janesville, WI
  • Gateway Technical College Police Academy – Kenosha, WI
  • Lakeshore Technical College Police Academy – Cleveland, WI
  • Madison Police Academy – Madison, WI
  • Milwaukee Area Technical College – Milwaukee, WI

For a complete list of all Wisconsin police academies in the state, check out WILEnet, administered by the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board (LESB) of the Department of Justice, Training and Standards Bureau.

Wisconsin Police Jobs Outlook

The future is bright for those who wish to become a part of Wisconsin’s law enforcement team. The positions within the force are expected to rise within the next few years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that law enforcement officials earned an average annual wage of $54,480 in 2014.2 It is expected that law enforcement jobs in the state will continue to increase, with over 390 average annual openings representing a 3.4% increase.3 The need for new police officials is increasing due to the large number of police officers retiring within the next few years, and the increase in allocated state budgets for law enforcement means.

To find out the current law enforcement openings in your area, check out our Police Jobs Page.

Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officer Salary in Wisconsin

City Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis 3,110 $65,020
Madison 1,310 $56,590
Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI Metropolitan Division 1,070 $70,100

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

References:
1. US Census Bureau: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/map/IPE120213/55
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Wisconsin: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm
3. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm