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Law Enforcement Careers in the District of Columbia

Law enforcement careers in Washington, D.C. are achieved through one, central department: the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia.

Washington is home to the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (most often referred to as the Metro Police or the MPD), which ranks as one of the top ten police forces in the country in terms of police officer training.

The Jurisdiction and Structure of the DC Metropolitan Police Department

As of 2011, the MPD had a total of 4,302 employees (3,814 sworn personnel, 488 civilian personnel). There were 69 recruits; 3,116 officers/detectives; 421 sergeants; 137 lieutenants; 37 captains; and 34 command personnel during this time.

Because Washington, D.C. is located within an independent federal city, the Metro Police must serve as a local police force, a county police agency, and a state police agency. The MPD is divided into 7 distinct Police Districts, which are then further divided into a number of Police Service Areas, most often called PSAs (the Police Districts have between 7 and 9 PSAs). All residents of Washington, D.C. live in one of the MPD’s PSAs, and all PSAs have a team of police officers assigned to it.

In 2011 the District of Columbia was divided into 7 Police Districts as part of a realignment plan that was based on an evaluation of crime, calls for services, development and road construction plans, and community concerns, among other things. In particular, the new boundaries are designed to distribute crime and calls for service equally among all of the Districts.

Because Washington, D.C. serves as an independent city, MPD officers often work alongside a number of uniformed law enforcement agencies, such as the United States Secret Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Capitol Police, and the United States Park Police.


Jobs with the Specialized Units of the DC Metro Police

The MPD has a number of specialized units. All MPD officers with at least three years of experience working for the MPD may apply for a position within one of these specialized units:

  • Emergency Response Team
  • Bomb Squad
  • Harbor Patrol Unit
  • Canine Unit
  • Helicopter Unit
  • Special Events
  • Special Investigations

The MPD has an Executive Office of the Chief of Police, under which seven bureaus are organized:

  • Internal Affairs Bureau
  • Strategic Services Bureau
  • Homeland Security Bureau
  • Patrol Services and School Security Bureau
  • Professional Development Bureau
  • Corporate Support Bureau
  • Investigative Services Bureau

The MPD also has operates a number of units that are designed to better assist the general public:

  • Youth Investigations Branch
  • Victims Specialists Unit
  • Major Case Victims Unit
  • Latino Liaison Unit
  • Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit
  • Firearms Registration Unit
  • Financial Crimes and Fraud Unit
  • Family Liaison Specialist Unit
  • Evidence Control Division
  • Domestic Violence Unit
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing Liaison Unit
  • Corporate Support Bureau
  • Community Outreach
  • Civil Rights and Force Investigations Branch
  • Asian Liaison Unit

How to Become a Police Officer with the DC Metro Police Department

Individuals seeking Police Officer jobs and training in Washington, D.C. must undergo a police officer background investigation process that may take up to six months to complete. Within that time, candidates for Police Officer jobs in Washington, D.C. must: attend a new candidate orientation; complete a physical ability test and a written examination; undergo fingerprinting and a thorough background investigation; pass a polygraph examination; and complete a medical and psychological evaluation.

District of Columbia Law Enforcement Salaries

According to an occupational guide released by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 Edition, in 2010, the median District of Columbia law enforcement salaries were as follows:

  • Detectives and Criminal Investigators: $122,410
  • Supervisors of Police and Detectives: $131,510
  • Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: $65,380

Salaries among Detectives and Criminal Investigators in the District of Columbia

Area name
Annual mean wage
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV

Police Officer and Sheriff Salary in District of Columbia

The starting salary for a police officer working for the Metropolitan Police Department is $48,715, which recruits begin earning as soon as they start academy training. After 18 months of service, most police officers will have reached a base salary of around $53,300. Lateral officers are those with prior law enforcement experience, and they are typically given a salary range of $51,151 to $71,971. In addition, officers who are certified and have fluency of a 2nd language are paid a $50 monthly stipend.

The District of Columbia is unique in that because it is a federal city but also controlled by local government elected officials, the normal functions that might normally be handled by a sheriff’s office are delegated to other agencies within the District of Columbia.

Salaries among Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers in the District of Columbia

Area name
Annual mean wage
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV

State Trooper Salary in District of Columbia

The role of state trooper in the District of Columbia is handled by the United States Marshal Service. In the District of Columbia, Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) are paid by the General Schedule, which encompasses 15 grades and 10 steps, ranging anywhere from $22,115 to $155,500.

Police Supervisors and Detectives Salaries in the District of Columbia

Area name
Annual mean wage
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV

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