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Law Enforcement Careers in Montana

Law enforcement careers in Montana are found at the state, county, and city levels. Most Montana police training is administered through the Montana Law Enforcement Testing Consortium (MTLETC), though some agencies have opted to develop and maintain their own independent training programs.

Jobs with the Montana Highway Patrol

The Montana Highway Patrol is comprised of 225 troopers who issue more than 80,000 tickets per year. The MHP responds to over 160,000 calls for service each year, with the combined force driving more than 6.5 million miles. When not on patrol, troopers give presentations addressing important highway safety topics such as seat belts, the dangers of driving while intoxicated, and child car safety.

Law Enforcement Jobs in Montana: Sheriff’s Departments

Sheriff’s department jurisdictions may also include cities that are not large enough to support their own police department, such as Butte.

Yellowstone County

The Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Department is in charge of local law enforcement activities as well as maintaining the Yellowstone County Detention Facility, built in 1987. The facility has a capacity for 274 inmates, and incorporates a supervision method based on the latest theories known as, “direct supervision.” Corrections officer candidates are preferred to have experience in a related field or previous experience which developed related skills. Deputy candidates must pass a written test administered by the Montana Law Enforcement Testing Consortium (MTLETC).

Missoula County

Missoula County stretches over 2,600 square miles, and sheriff’s department patrol units will cover over 750,000 miles during one year’s worth of driving, writing about 3,000 reports. The sheriff’s department provides services in its detention facility, and with its patrol, detective, coroner, and special response units.

Cascade County

Some of the Cascade County Sheriff’s Department’s most popular public services are dog control and the issuance of concealed weapons permits. They also maintain birth and death records, and issue several types of permits. Sheriff’s deputies work closely with the Great Falls Police Department to ensure citizens and property can exist in peace. The deputy employment process includes passing a written exam and oral interview.

 

Police Jobs in Montana: Municipal Departments

Within the major cities, law enforcement work falls to the city police departments who protect and serve the citizens within their jurisdictions. Some of the largest in Montana include:

Billings

According to the most recent statistics released by the Billings Police Department, officers responded to 12,947 cases of criminal activity in a period of one year. 5,159 of these crimes were categorized as larceny and 1,592 were listed under the category of criminal mischief. Applicants must become certified through the MTLETC agency.

Missoula

The Missoula Police Department has adopted the broken window theory as its philosophical basis. This holds that if citizens see a window is broken and not repaired they will conclude there is an absence of responsibility. To prevent this and crime in general, Missoula police address all small crimes before they can grow into something larger. Minimum background qualifications for officer jobs are confidential and not released by the MPD.

Great Falls

The Great Falls Police Department had a humble beginning in 1888 with a police chief and a deputy comprising the total police force. Today the force has grown to include 65 vehicles and 88 officers who enforce the laws and educate the public. Potential employees must be eligible for and pass a test proctored by the MTLETC.

Bozeman

In 2018 the Bozeman Police Department had a total of around 60 officers who responded to 50,548 calls for service. The 2012 projected budget is $8.3 million and is allocated to support personnel as well as the maintenance of the department’s 40 vehicles. There are over 46,000 residents in Bozeman, a city that spans over 19 square miles. Candidates for employment must be processed through the MTLETC.

Helena

The Helena Police Department has partnered with the Crime Stoppers tip program to increase the amount of cases solved. The most recent statistics indicate this partnership has led to 600 arrests and the recovery of over $1.3 million in stolen property. The Helena PD is a member of the MTLETC.

Montana Law Enforcement Salaries

The average hourly wage for police and sheriff patrol officers in Montana is $27.03 per hour according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018, with those at the 90thpercentile bringing in $35.31/hr, or around $73,450 each year. The following salary data was collected directly from the agencies and represents data for the most recent year published. Entry level salaries reflect post-probationary pay, while mid-level salaries may reflect sergeant or corporal ranks where available. Senior levels, likewise, may reflect lieutenant, captain, or investigator pay.

The numbers don’t reflect overtime, bonus, or hazard pay, although those are common benefits at many agencies.

Police Officer Salaries

Although even the cities in Montana are small as far as cities go, they tend to offer some of the best pay rates for law enforcement officers in the state. The State Patrol even complains about losing its best troopers to agencies such as Great Falls, where senior officers can make nearly $70,000 per year.

  • Billings Police Department
    • Entry – $26.11/hr
    • Mid-level (10yrs) – $32.03/hr
    • Senior (22yrs) – $36.79/hr
  • Bozeman Police Department
    • Entry – $4,747,80/mo
    • Mid-level (10yrs) – $5,825.70
    • Senior (25yrs) – $6,942.55
  • Great Falls Police Department
    • Entry – $53,398/yr
    • Mid-level (10yrs) – $65,966/yr
    • Senior (20yrs) – $68,072/yr
  • Helena Police Department
    • Entry – $24.24/hr
    • Mid-level – $29.84/hr
    • Senior – $32.92/hr

Sheriff’s Deputy Salaries

Sherriff’s departments in Big Sky country have a lot of territory to cover and tend to be low on staffing, which makes salaries critical in attracting top candidates. But a low cost of living and the unparalleled grandeur of the natural beauty here are another draw.

In the major counties near urban centers, like Missoula, salaries are comparable to local police departments.

  • Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department
    • Entry – $24.98/hr
  • Missoula County Sheriff’s Department
    • Entry – $56,687/yr
    • Mid-level – $63,400/yr
    • Senior – $66,384/yr
  • Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Department
    • Entry – $25.43/hr

State Trooper and State Police Salaries

As the premier law enforcement agency in the state, the Montana Highway Patrol has recently started boosting salaries in order to hang on to their well-trained and highly experienced troopers.

  • Montana Highway Patrol
    • Entry (Probation) – $23.32/hr
    • Entry (Base) – $24.45/hr

 

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_mt.htm#11-9111.

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.