Riot Police Careers

One of the most challenging things law enforcement officers are called upon to do is control large crowds of hostile or agitated individuals.  Whether these are protestors, picketers, or rowdy sports fans, police often have difficulty effectively managing crowds that far outnumber them.  In order to successfully manage these types of situations, law enforcement agencies have developed Riot Police Units that use specialized weapons and equipment to disperse crowds or maintain law and order.

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Riot Police Job Description

Riot police jobs involve performing the following duties:

  • Disperse riots with tear gas, rubber bullets or water cannons
  • Identify instigators of violence and arrest them
  • Maintain security around businesses, government facilities or installations
  • Control crowds through megaphones and horseback officer instructions
  • Investigate crimes, acts of vandalism or unruly behavior


Riot Police Training

Once hired, police recruits are required to complete a rigorous training program at the police academy.  A curriculum of classroom instruction and physical training will help prepare officers for the many challenges of law enforcement.

New recruits typically serve two to three years as probationary officers before they can request admission to special units like the riot police.  While there are some law enforcement organizations in larger cities or at the state and federal level with dedicated officers who serve in crowd control units full-time, the vast majority of riot police only provide these specific policing responsibilities when a riot or other public safety issue arises.

If selected, riot police officers must undergo specialized training.  This training introduces officers to the protective gear that is used to manage unruly crowds. This includes helmets, faceguards, body armor, gas masks, and riot shields.  Riot police also use specialized offensive weapons designed to subdue or disperse crowds including tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, TASERs, water cannons, and canine units. Riot police also learn the tactics necessary to effectively manage demonstrations or riots like forming a perimeter and lock-step marching.

Riot Police Salary Expectations

Riot police in most metropolitan police organizations are composed of uniformed officers who typically perform crowd control duties when a situation necessitates it. Most riot police officers earn salaries that are equivalent to those of other officers with similar education, experience and geographical location. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), police officers earned an average salary of $70,750 as of May 2021, while the highest paid earned salaries that reflected the 90th percentile, or $102,530.

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How To Become a Riot Police Officer

Preparation to learn how to become a riot police officer is similar to that of other law enforcement jobs.  Candidates should possess superior physical conditioning in the areas of upper body strength, flexibility, stamina and agility.  Although many police departments only require a high school diploma, many candidates benefit from possessing an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree during the hiring process.

Most police departments require the following qualifications to join their organization:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • 18 years of age or older
  • Valid driver’s license
  • No felony convictions

Many law enforcement organizations also stipulate a history of zero or limited drug use, pristine driving records, upstanding moral characters, and no incidents of domestic violence.  These and other features of candidates’ histories will be investigated through intensive background checks and polygraph examinations during the selection process.

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 national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed August 2022.

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