Law Enforcement Careers in New Mexico

The latest statistics from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program paint a challenging picture for New Mexico, which has seen a steady increase in crime in recent years. Both New Mexico and its major metropolis of Albuquerque posted troubling crime rates in 2017, resulting in the dubious distinction as first in the nation for its per capita rate of property crime and second (only after Alaska) for its per capita rate of violent crime.

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In Albuquerque, 2017 brought a 23% increase in violent crimes – murder, robbery, aggravated assault, and rape. That’s in addition to its 2016 increase of 15.5%. The state as a whole posted a 12% increase in violent crime and a small .5% increase in property crime in 2017.

New Mexico’s largest cities are combating these increases with plans to boost their police forces. For example, the Albuquerque Police Department announced plans to add some 400 officers to its police force in the coming years. The City Council approved a 2019 budget that would provide the police department with an additional $205 million to handle the expense of adding more officers.

These types of significant recruitment efforts spell opportunity for aspiring law enforcement officers, whether at the state, municipal, or county level. Those with an unwavering commitment to justice and integrity and who are able to meet the requirements and demands associated with becoming a law enforcement officer can become valuable members of New Mexico’s dedicated law enforcement community.

Jobs with the New Mexico State Police

Originally established in 1905 as the New Mexico Mounted Police, the New Mexico State Police employ 276 uniformed officers to investigate, prevent, detect, and disrupt violent criminals and those who would commit felonies in New Mexico.

Trooper applicants must be 21 years old and must possess a high school diploma or GED. Applicants must have either completed 60 credit hours of college credit (equivalent to an associate’s degree), or otherwise can attend the Law Enforcement Academy and receive 30 credit hours from San Juan College. In that case, they are given two years to obtain the remaining 30 credit hours. Applicants who happen to have 30 credit hours in the beginning, can obtain the rest from attending the Academy.

Selected applicants become candidates who go on to take a physical fitness test, and then if they pass, a written test the same day. Training for officers is provided by the New Mexico State Police Training and Recruiting Bureau.

Jobs with Sheriff’s Departments in New Mexico

Sheriff’s deputies in New Mexico serve in some 33 county sheriff’s offices in the state. It is the job of these law enforcement officials to provide patrol services and, in many cases, court security, corrections oversight, and backup for municipal and state agencies. Sheriff’s deputies often work in specialized units and divisions, such as SWAT, investigations, and motorcycle units.

Bernalillo County

The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department provides a number of law enforcement services for the citizens of Bernalillo County. The Department has a Metro Air Unit, a SWAT Team, and an extensive Criminal Services Division that provides Crime Scene Investigations.

Individuals interested in becoming a sheriff’s deputy in Bernalillo County must be 21 years old before they graduate from the academy and must have a high school diploma or GED. They must pass two written exams, a physical agility test, and polygraph, psychological, and medical examinations.

Sandoval County

The Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department provides law enforcement, animal control services, and court security to residents of the county. In municipalities within the county, the Sheriff’s Department has concurrent jurisdiction.

Sheriff’s deputy job applicants in Sandoval County must be 21 years old, be U.S. citizens, and have a high school diploma or GED. They must have completed the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy or have had equivalent training.

Santa Fe County

In addition to general patrol duties, the deputy sheriffs in Santa Fe County may work out of a number of divisions, including the Accident Investigation & Reconstruction Division, court security services, the Criminal Investigations Division, the DUI/DRE Unit, the Narcotics Division, and more.

To become a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Fe County, candidates must have a high school diploma or GED and be 21 years old by the time the 22 weeks of training in the academy is completed.

Jobs with Municipal Police Departments in New Mexico

Crime within city boundaries in New Mexico is often much higher than other areas of the state, giving New Mexico one of the highest rates in the country for its rate of violent crime. For example, in the last five years, violent crime in Albuquerque increased a shocking 36%.


The Albuquerque Police Department boasts a police force of nearly 1,000 and is organized into a number of specialized units, including crime scene investigations, tactical units, special investigations, violent crimes, and more.

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Applicants for a position as a police officer in Albuquerque must be 21 years old by the time they graduate from the academy. They must also have 60 college credit hours with a minimum 2.0 GPA. This can be waived for those who have served in the military for three years.

Las Cruces

The crime rate in Las Cruces is high compared to other cities in the U.S. The 75 patrol officers and 12 sergeants of the Las Cruces Police Department Patrol Program worked to fight this trend with some success in 2018, reducing violent crime by 18 percent, with 129 fewer logged than in 2017.

Applicants must be 20 years old and have a high school diploma or GED. The first step in the application process is a written exam. Applicants who pass this then undergo a physical assessment test. Those who pass undergo a background check, oral interviews, drug screen, and polygraph, psychological, and medical evaluations.

Rio Rancho

The officers of the Rio Rancho Police Department often work in the department’s specialized units, which include a traffic unit, criminal investigations division, K-9 unit, and SWAT, among others.

Applicants for police officer jobs in Rio Rancho must have prior experience in law enforcement or in the military or have law enforcement certification. Applicants undergo a physical fitness assessment and a written exam. If they pass, they are then interviewed and undergo a background check. Successful applicants receive a conditional offer of employment, but they must then pass drug screening, a medical exam, and psychological screening. Training for Police Officers in Rio Rancho is provided at the Basic Police Officer Academy.


Roswell has a very high crime rate compared to other cities of the same size. The 74 sworn officers of the Roswell Police Department responded to 62,411 service calls in 2017.

Individuals who have applied for police officer positions in Roswell and are accepted for employment will undergo training at the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy in Santa Fe for a 22-week course.

Santa Fe

Santa Fe Police Department’s largest division, the Patrol Division, is comprised of four patrol teams, alongside a traffic team, bike patrol, DWI unit, animal control and public safety aides.

Applicants for police officer positions in Santa Fe must be U.S. citizens and must have reached 21 years of age. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED. To be hired, applicants must pass a written exam, physical agility tests, and oral interview, and polygraph, background, psychological, and medical examinations, along with a drug screening test.

New Mexico Law Enforcement Salaries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 the average patrol officer in New Mexico brought home $51,250 for the year, or an hourly wage of $24.64. Senior officers can make as much as $63,360, or $30.46 per hour.

The most recently published entry, mid-level, and senior grade salaries for various agencies at the municipal, county, and state level have been listed below, where available. Mid and senior grades may reflect sergeant or higher supervisory roles depending on agency promotion and structural practices. Entry level salaries are post-probationary period.

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None of the wages include bonus, specialty incentive, hazard, or overtime pay, although those can be important pieces of compensation in some areas.

Police Officer Salaries

When your starting salary is already higher than the state average, as it is in Albuquerque, you know you’ve found a good spot. Urban pay rates tend to be higher than rural areas throughout the state, but the gap between starting and senior salaries can be considerable, as it is in Roswell.

  • Albuquerque Police Department
    • Entry – $26.44/hr
    • Mid-level – $28.00/hr
    • Senior – $36.70/hr
  • Las Cruces Police Department
    • Entry – $17.91/hr
    • Mid-level – $23.71/hr
    • Senior – $33.32/hr
  • Rio Rancho Police Department
    • Entry – $19.66/hr
    • Mid-level – $24.39/hr
    • Senior – $29.99/hr
  • Roswell Police Department
    • Entry – $21.42/hr
    • Senior – $50.00/hr
  • Santa Fe Police Department
    • Entry – $16.34/hr
    • Mid-level – $24.54/hr
    • Senior – $30.47/hr

Sheriff’s Deputy Salaries

New Mexico sheriff’s departments have a lot of ground to cover in some harsh terrain. The wide range of tasks they are expected to accomplish can help account for some of the high end salaries, which may exceed even the 90th percentile for the state.

  • Bernalillo County Sheriff
    • Entry – $22.41/hr
    • Mid-level – $32.36/hr
    • Senior – $38.68
  • Santa Fe County Sheriff
    • Entry – $19.28/hr
    • Mid-level – $28.08/hr
    • Senior – $33.78/hr
  • Sandoval County
    • Entry – $46,280/yr
    • Mid-level – $57,200/yr
    • Senior – $72,800/yr

State Police Salaries

Although the pay rate is not the highest for state police in New Mexico, the esprit de corps is, and their track record reflects the abilities of this highly professional force.

  • New Mexico State Police
    • Entry – $17.35/hr
    • Mid-point – $26.65/hr
    • Senior – $43.41/hr


Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2018. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment for medical and health services managers –

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.