Colorado’s policing efforts are paying off. Although the Colorado Bureau of Investigation reported an increase in violent crime for the fifth straight year in the state as of 2018, recent stats reveal a state on the mend. According to stats from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program, violent crime in Colorado decreased a truly remarkable 4% between 2018 and 2019, falling from 22,851 incidents in 2018 to 21,938 in 2019.
At the same time, police officer shortages have been reported in places like Colorado Springs, Larimar County, and Boulder County.
Serving on the front lines in Colorado is challenging, for sure, but for the men and women who bring a deep dedication to the role and an abiding respect for the rule of law, combined with exceptional training through one of Colorado’s state, municipal, or county law enforcement agencies, it’s gratifying work that makes for a fulfilling career.
Jobs with the Colorado State Patrol
The Colorado State Patrol employs about 1,100 sworn officers and civilian personnel. Troopers here work within the Executive Security Unit (ESU) which, in addition to providing highway patrol services, also provides transportation and security for the Governor and the First Family.
Other programs and divisions within the Colorado State Patrol include:
- Canine Team
- Hazardous Materials
- Homeland Security
- Motor Carrier Safety
- Motorcycle Operations
- Port of Entry
- Professional Standards
- Technical Accident Reconstruction
All members of the ESU have specialized training in bomb detection, critical incident management, dignitary protection, and media relations.
State trooper candidates must meet a set of minimum requirements to qualify for police academy training, which include being at least 20 ½ years old, holding a high school diploma or GED, and possessing a current and valid Colorado driver’s license. The hiring process includes passing an extensive background investigation, psychological examination, medical exam, physical fitness/agility tests, and a pre-employment polygraph.
Municipal Police Departments in Colorado
A shortage of police officers throughout the state and rising crime rates in major cities like Denver have created a strong need for qualified men and women to serve at the municipal level, providing patrol services and serving in specialized divisions and units.
The Denver Police Department is divided into six decentralized district commands, each of which has its own stand-alone station as its base of operations:
- District 1: NW
- District 2: North Central
- District 3: SE
- District 4: SW
- District 5: NE
- District 6: Downtown
All candidates must be U.S. citizens and must show proof of Colorado residency. They must also be at least 21 years of age and possess a high school diploma/GED and a valid driver’s license.
The Colorado Springs Police Department has a total of 700 sworn officers and is organized into the following Bureaus:
- Patrol Bureau – The Patrol Bureau consists of four area commands: Stetson Hills, Gold Hill, Sand Creek, and Falcon.
- Operations Support Bureau – Within the Operations Support Bureau is the Investigation Division, which is further broken down into three areas:
- Specialized Enforcement Division
- Investigations Division
- Metro Vice, Narcotics, and Intelligence
Some of the services provided by the Operations Support Bureau include:
- Violent Crimes Investigations
- Sex Crimes Investigation
- Investigation of Property and Personal Crimes
- Regional Crime Lab
- Tactical Enforcement
- Violent Crimes Investigation
- Canine Unit
- Marshals Units
- Air Support Helicopter Unit
Candidates interested in becoming police officers in Colorado Springs must meet the following requirements:
- Must be at least 21 years of age
- Must have no felony convictions
- Must have no history of domestic violence
- Must have an associate degree or 60 college semester hours
The Aurora Police Department is divided into three districts. Patrol officers here may also serve as K-9 officers, school resource officers, traffic accident investigators, SWAT officers, narcotics investigators, motor carrier safety officers, and motorcycle enforcement officers.
All applicants must be at least 21 before the start of police academy training. They must also be a citizen of the United States, possess a high school diploma or GED, and have a valid driver’s license.
The Boulder Police Department consists of a Patrol unit, which includes a number of special units, including DUI Enforcement, School Resource Units, and a Community Services Unit.
The Boulder Police Department also includes a Detective Division, which includes three sergeants and detectives who are tasked with investigating financial crimes, major crimes, family crimes, and computer crimes. This Division also oversees the Department’s crime analysis unit and intelligence unit.
All applicants must be at least 21 years of age and must have completed 60 hours of college credit from an accredited school before they can begin training in Boulder. They must also meet specific physical requirements and pass a background investigation.
The Lakewood Police Department includes 400 employees and more than 100 volunteers. The Patrol Division is comprised of special teams and community programs, including:
- Community Services Officer Team
- K-9 Unit Team
- Colorado Mills Mall Team
- Special Enforcement Team
- Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT)
- The Investigation Division includes three teams: Crimes Against Persons, Crimes Against Property, and Criminalistics.
Police officer candidates must pass an Essential Functions examination and a Suitability Test, and they must pass an interview with the Oral Board. Further, before candidates can begin their training with the Lakewood PD, they must pass a psychological screening, background investigation, and a polygraph exam.
County Sheriff’s Departments in Colorado
Police work outside of Colorado’s city limits is handled by the state’s many sheriff’s departments. Deputy sheriffs here patrol the state’s unincorporated areas and also often provide court security, corrections services, and backup assistance for the municipal police departments and the Colorado State Patrol.
The El Paso Sheriff’s Department includes an area of 2,158 square miles and is separated into the following Bureaus:
- Detention Bureau
- Emergency Services Division
- Investigations Division
- Law Enforcement Bureau
- Operations Division
- Patrol Division
- Security Division
- Support Division
- Support Services Bureau
In El Paso County, sheriff’s deputies may seek specialized jobs in the following units: mounted unit, SWAT team, traffic unit, K-9 unit, crime reduction unit, and a community support unit.
Applicants must be at least 21 years old, hold a high school diploma or GED, and possess a valid Colorado driver’s license. Recruits must agree to serve the sheriff’s office for a term of at least two years.
The Denver Sheriff’s Department covers both the city and county of Denver and includes the County Jail Division, the Downtown Division, and the Technology, Support and Special Projects Division.
The 985 uniformed and non-uniformed employees also oversee two jails, the district and county court system security, transportation for state inmates, extradition duties, and community corrections work release programs.
The hiring process for sheriff’s deputies include meeting basic qualifications, passing a written examination, background investigation, polygraph examination, psychological examination, physical fitness test, and medical examination. Recruits must then successfully complete 13 weeks of training through the Denver Sheriff Academy.
The Arapahoe Sheriff’s Department includes the following Bureaus:
- Detention/Administrative Services Bureau
- Professional Standards Bureau
- Public Safety Bureau
Qualified candidates must hold a high school diploma or GED, they must be at least 21 years old, and they must have no felony, misdemeanor, or domestic violence convictions.
Colorado Law Enforcement Salaries
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Colorado police officers earned an average salary of $80,620 as of May 2021.
The following police/sheriff’s department salary data was sourced from May 2021 BLS stats (early career = 25th percentile, senior/late career = 90th percentile).
Police Officer Salaries
The average salary for police officers working out of the state’s largest police departments is about $76,000.
Aurora Police Department
New police officers with the Aurora Police Department earn about $76,880 and as much as $103,730.
Colorado Springs Police Department
New police hire recruits with the Colorado Springs Police Department earn about $65,630. Those at the top of the pay scale earn about $77,350.
Denver Police Department
Police officer recruits with the Denver Police Department earn about $88,050. Then, upon completing the required training, police officers are promoted. The top 10% here earn about $103,730.
Fort Collins Police Department
Fort Collins’ police officers earn an entry-level salary of $76,010, with the top pay of about $105,540.
Sheriff’s Deputy Salaries
The annual, average salary for sheriff’s deputies in Colorado’s largest counties is $58,000, about $20,000 less than the average starting salary for police officers in Colorado.
Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department
Sheriff’s deputies of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department earn a starting salary of about $40,700, with the salary reflecting the experience and/or education of the recruit.
Denver County Sheriff’s Department
The Denver County Sheriff’s Department pays new deputy sheriffs a starting salary of about $76,880 based on education and experience.
El Paso County Sheriff’s Department
Deputy recruits with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department earn about $60,950. Sheriff’s deputies can eventually become senior deputies and earn as much as $83,950.
State Trooper and State Police Salaries
State troopers with the Colorado State Patrol earn between $64,610 and $102,880.
Additional salary increases may be achieved through promotion to the ranks of corporal and sergeant.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for police and sheriff’s patrol officers. Job growth projections from the US Department of Labor-sponsored resource, Projections Central. Figures are based on state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed August 2022