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Law Enforcement Careers in Arizona

The tireless efforts of Arizona’s law enforcement community have resulted in an overall downward trend in violent and property crimes throughout the state, according to statistics compiled in the 2017 FBI Uniform Crime Report. But in some of the state’s largest metropolises, the picture isn’t so rosy. For example, in Phoenix, violent crime has risen steadily in recent years, jumping from a rate of 674 per 100,000 residents in 2016 to 761 in 2017, which is nearly double the national average.

While there’s still much work to be done, those on the front line, whether at the state, municipal or county level, are committed to protecting Arizona’s citizens and improving their quality of life. Your strong moral compass, coupled with the proper skillset and training, will allow you to become one of the dedicated few who commit their careers to serving and protecting.

 

State Law Enforcement in Arizona

The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) provides support and operational functions for the state’s highway system, as well as for other public safety efforts. DPS also provides scientific analysis, criminal interdiction, and technical and operational support for other criminal justice agencies. Headquartered in Phoenix, the DPS has about 2,071 employees, including 1,171 sworn officers and 900 professional staff who work out of four divisions:

  • Criminal Investigations Division
  • Director’s Office
  • Highway Patrol Division
  • Technical Services Division

State troopers provide law enforcement services to both the Highway Patrol Division and the Criminal Investigations Division. To become a state trooper, candidates must be at least 21 years old, they must possess a high school diploma or GED, and they must have a valid Arizona driver’s license. The recruitment process here includes passing written, oral, fitness, and medical exams before going on to the training program through the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy.

Highway Patrol Division

The Arizona Highway Patrol Division, which ensures the safe use of the state’s highway transportation system, also provides assistance to both local and county law enforcement agencies and oversees the air rescue and aviation services for the DPS.

The Arizona Highway Patrol Division is divided up into four bureaus based on location: North, South, Metro West, and Metro East. The Metro East Bureau is also the site of the Division’s Specialty Units, which include:

  • Canine District
  • Drug Interdiction
  • DUI Enforcement Squad
  • Motorcycle District
  • Photo Enforcement Program

Criminal Investigations Division (CID)

The Criminal Investigations Division (CID) provides services to the public and criminal justice community by deterring crime using investigative and enforcement strategies and resources. The primary investigative responsibilities of the CID include interdiction of narcotic trafficking, organized crime, fugitive apprehension, gangs, vehicle theft, human smuggling, and financial crimes. The CID is also responsible for protecting the Governor and providing tactical services in the event of large-scale violence and disasters.

The groups within the CID include:

  • Gang Enforcement
  • General Investigations and Narcotics
  • Intelligence and Special Operations
  • Rocky Mountain Information Network

Municipal Police Departments in Arizona

911 call response, community patrolling, and investigations at the city level are the responsibility of Arizona’s municipal police departments. With major cities like Phoenix reporting upticks in crime rates, the importance of these law enforcement professionals cannot be overemphasized.

Phoenix

The Phoenix Police Department is the largest police department in the State of Arizona, operating with a $600+ million budget, and employing 2,900 sworn officers and about 900 civilian employees, all working to serve the more than 1.6 million residents of Phoenix.

The Phoenix Police Department is organized into the following precincts:

  • Black Mountain Precinct
  • Cactus Park Precinct
  • Central City Precinct
  • Desert Horizon Precinct
  • Estrella Mountain Precinct
  • Maryvale Precinct
  • Mountain View Precinct
  • South Mountain Precinct

Candidates must pass a physical agility test and background investigation. Once candidates have completed the initial phase and have interviewed with the department, they must successfully complete the second phase, which includes passing a polygraph examination, psychological test, medical examination, and controlled substance screening.

Tucson

The Tucson Police Department serves the more than 1.1 million people living in the state’s second largest city. The department is divided into five patrol divisions (which are further divided into sectors):

  • Operations Division Downtown
  • Operations Division East
  • Operations Division Midtown
  • Operations Division South
  • Operations Division West

Candidates here must be U.S. citizens at least 21 years old, must have a high school diploma or GED, and must have no felony convictions or DUI convictions within the last three years.

Mesa

The Mesa Police Department provides law enforcement services for Mesa, the 36th largest city in the U.S. by population. It is organized into four districts, which include:

  • Central District
  • Dobson District
  • Red Mountain District
  • Superstition District

Candidates for police officer jobs in the Mesa Police Department must be United States citizens, must be at least 21 years of age, must have a high school diploma or GED, and must be able to pass a background investigation and medical examination. Candidates with bilingual skills and college-level courses in criminology are preferred.

Glendale

The Glendale Police Department, which is home to 394 police officers and 138 civilian employees, serves more than 226,000 residents and has three stations strategically located throughout Glendale: Main/Downtown Station; Foothills Station; and Gateway Station.

The Glendale Police Department is also broken down into the following Divisions/Squads:

  • Communications Division
  • Traffic Division
  • Victim Assistance
  • Graffiti Busters
  • Criminal Investigations Division

Candidates for police officer jobs with the Glendale Police Department must:

  • Be a high school graduate or equivalent
  • Be of sound physical and mental health
  • Have no felony convictions
  • Pass a thorough background investigation and polygraph examination
  • Be at least 21 years of age (at the time of graduation from the law enforcement academy)
  • Hold an Arizona Class D operator’s license

Police officer recruits must complete an Arizona certified law enforcement academy for 18 weeks and then complete an additional field training program as the final phase to qualifying to become a Glendale police officer.

County Sheriff’s Departments in Arizona

Arizona is comprised of huge, unincorporated areas that often fall outside the jurisdiction of city police departments. For example, Maricopa County, home to about 4.4 million people, includes all unincorporated areas outside the major cities of Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, Scottsdale, Tempe, and Glendale. Sheriff’s offices are tasked with providing patrol services to these areas, as well as providing court security, overseeing county jails, and more.

Maricopa County

The Maricopa County’s Sheriff Office patrols an area of 9,200 square miles and includes seven districts. This major county sheriff’s office is home to more than 3,400 employees.

Candidates must be at least 21 years of age; must be a U.S. citizen; must have a high school diploma or GED; must have no felony convictions; must have no misdemeanor convictions within the last three years; and must have not been dishonorably discharged from the armed services.

Pima County

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department is the seventh largest sheriff’s department in the nation, organized into six district offices and three satellite offices. Deputy sheriffs here may work in the Corrections Bureau, which oversees four facilities, and in one of the units of the Specialized Response Division, which include DUI Enforcement, Bomb Squad, SWAT, canine unit, and more.

Sheriff deputy candidates here must be at least 21 years old; must have a high school diploma or GED; must be a United States citizen; must have no felony convictions; must have not used narcotics or dangerous drugs in the past seven years; and must not have used marijuana within the last three years.

Pinal County

The deputy sheriffs of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office work through the Patrol Bureau or Criminal Investigations unit. Divisions with the Criminal Investigations Unit include Homicide, the Narcotics Task Force, Person Crimes, Property Crimes Unit, and the Anti-Smuggling Unit.

Candidates here must have a high school diploma or GED, must be at least 21 years of age, and must successfully pass a written exam, psychological exam, polygraph test, physical or stress test, and a background exam.

Arizona Law Enforcement Salaries

2018 statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal a median salary of $65,220, with the top 10% earning an average salary of $81,400.

The following salary data, pulled directly from the respective departments/agencies, show starting salaries and, in some instances, mid- and senior-level salaries. Unless otherwise noted, starting salaries are for post-Academy officers. Incentive pay is also included, where applicable.

Police Officer Salaries

The average starting salary for police officers among the state’s largest police departments is $53,576, with officers of the Mesa Police Department coming out on top, at $56,534.

  • Chandler Police Department

Police officers with the Chandler Police Department earn a starting salary of $53,414 ($25.68/hourly), with salary increases available to $78,832 ($37.90/hour). Field training officers earn an additional 5%, and bilingual officers (Spanish only) may earn up to 5% more based upon their skill level.

  • Glendale Police Department

Police officer recruits with the Glendale Police Department earn a salary of $54,350. Then, after graduation from the police academy, salaries for these law enforcement professionals increase by steps:

  • Step 1: $57,067
  • Step 2: $59,920
  • Step 3: $62,916
  • Step 4: $66,062
  • Step 5: $69,365
  • Step 6: $72,833
  • Step 7: $76,476
  • Step 8: $80,299

Police officers here with bilingual skills who are able to pass a competency exam earn an additional 3%, and those who work special assignments like SWAT, computer forensics, vehicular crimes, and sex crimes also earn an additional 3%:

  • Mesa Police Department

Police officers with the Mesa Police Department earn a starting salary of $56,534, with senior level officers earning as much as $79,789. Salary incentives are available for field training and bilingual officers.

  • Scottsdale Police Department

The police officers of the Scottsdale Police Department earn a salary of $27.14/hour ($56,451) and $39.45/hour ($82,056).

  • Tucson Police Department

Police officers with the Tucson Police Department earn a starting salary of $47,132 ($22.66/hour). Officers on special assignment earn an additional 5%, and detectives earn an additional 10%.

Sheriff’s Deputy Salaries

Sheriff’s deputies earn a lower starting salary than police officers in Arizona, with an average starting salary for sheriff’s deputies among the state’s largest counties at just $45,891 – that’s about $10,000 less than police officers.

  • Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department

Sworn deputies with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department earn a starting salary of $22.28/hour ($46,342), while POST-certified deputies earn between $24.80/hour ($51,584) and $36.35/hour ($75,608).

  • Mohave County Sheriff’s Department

Sheriff’s deputies with the Mohave County Sheriff’s Department earn an annual salary of between $41,558 and $64,438.

  • Pinal County Sheriff’s Department

Sheriff’s deputies of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department earn a minimum salary of $45,969, a mid-salary of $58,611, and a maximum salary of $71,252.

  • Pima County Sheriff’s Department

Deputy trainees with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department earn $22.62/hour ($47,049). Then, after probation (18 months from hire), their salary increases to between $47,049 and $53,040.

  • Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department

Deputy sheriff recruits of the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department earn a starting salary of $41,974. The salary range for sheriff’s deputies here is $48,540-$72,993.

State Trooper and State Police Salaries 

Arizona State Troopers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety can expect a salary’s that similar to those among police officers in municipal police departments. Cadets here earn a salary of $44,301 while in training (both pre-academy and basic training – about 28 weeks).

After graduation and certification, state trooper salaries increase to $51,685, with top troopers earning a maximum salary of $72,413 (based on a nine-step process).

 

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2018 https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_az.htm.

BLS salary data represents state and MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Agency-level salary and employment data was sourced directly from the municipal, county and state law enforcement agencies named and reflects the specific salary ranges and seniority- or rank-based pay described by the respective agency.

All salary and employment data accessed in August 2019.