Law Enforcement Careers in Washington

All routes to employment as a peace officer in Washington state run through the Basic Law Enforcement Academy in Burien, run by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. All cities, counties, state universities, railroad, and Department of Fish and Wildlife commissioned officers must complete the same 720 hour BLEA course at the academy.

Other requirements related to financial and criminal background checks, education and work experience are set by the individual agencies, but across municipal police departments, county sheriff’s offices and state agencies like the Highway Patrol, Washington State is known for consistently setting the bar high for new recruits. These high standards are part of the reason that the Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks Washington as second in the nation for law enforcement officer pay as of 2021.

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Police Officer Jobs in Washington

FBI national crime statistics showed that violent crime throughout the state dropped about 5.7% between 2018 and 2019.

The municipal police departments serving Washington’s largest metro areas are:

  • Bellevue Police Department
  • Tacoma Police Department
  • Seattle Police Department
  • Spokane City Police Department

Deputy Sheriff Jobs in Washington

Washington’s 39 counties each have independently elected sheriffs that head up all county-level law enforcement efforts. While most law enforcement functions sheriff’s offices perform are similar, they may have different responsibilities in the context of the larger criminal justice system, with some counties operating jails under the authority of the sheriff’s department, and others operating 911 communications centers.

The largest sheriffs’ departments in Washington State work out of three counties:

  • Spokane County
  • King County
  • Pierce County

General Training and Hiring Requirements for Law Enforcement Jobs in Washington

Under the rules of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, all new hires for Washington state trooper, municipal police officer and county sheriff’s deputy positions must complete at least 720 hours of basic training.

All agencies have their own standards, but the general qualifications that apply to most include:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Have a valid state driver’s license
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be able to read and write English
  • Have no record of felony convictions
  • Willing to relocate within county/municipality as required
  • Pass physical, written, psychological and polygraph tests
  • Pass background investigation

State Trooper Jobs With the Highway Patrol in Washington

WSP was only the third state law enforcement agency in the country to receive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). That level of expertise and professionalism has continued to carry through to today, with the agency receiving an Accreditation with Excellence award from CALEA in 2016, signifying its position as one of the finest agencies in the country.

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There are more than 1,000 state troopers currently working for the Washington State Highway Patrol, with a jurisdiction that includes the entire state– not only its highways. State trooper in Washington are based out of the following districts:

  • District 1: Tacoma
  • District 2: Bellevue
  • District 3: Yakima
  • District 4: Spokane
  • District 5: Vancouver
  • District 6: Wenatchee
  • District 7: Marysville
  • District 8: Bremerton

Qualifications for Becoming a State Trooper in Washington

In each of these eight districts, the qualifications for new hires is the same:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Be 19.5 years of age or older when applying for job
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Pass medical, psychological, drug, background investigations and examinations
  • Pass physical fitness test
  • Have no felony convictions on record
  • Be willing to relocate to anywhere in the state as needed
  • Be willing to work long hours, rotating shifts, and weekends

Washington Law Enforcement Salaries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that law enforcement officers in Washington earned an average salary of $92,390 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).

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Police Officer Salaries

In a state known for high rates of pay for law enforcement professionals, metropolitan officers in Washington can expect impressive salaries. Although the cost of living in urban areas is higher than the rural parts of the state, senior officers in particular can expect to receive compensation that allows a comfortable lifestyle in the city and surrounding suburbs.

Bellingham Police Department

  • Entry – $80,140
  • Mid-Level – $90,760
  • Senior – $102,880

Seattle Police Department

  • Entry – $84,760
  • Mid-Level – $100,330
  • Senior – $127,110

Spokane Police Department

  • Entry – $66,330
  • Mid-Level – $83,640
  • Senior $97,480

Olympia Police Department

  • Entry – $79,310
  • Mid-Level – $90,920
  • Senior – $103,440

Yakima Police Department

  • Entry – $76,880
  • Mid-Level – $81,470
  • Senior – $100,890

Sheriff’s Deputy Salaries

Although sheriff’s deputies in the largely rural parts of the state are not compensated as well as their urban colleagues, their cost of living can be considerably lower. And in the heavily urbanized parts of Western Washington, deputies make salaries that are on par with their metropolitan counterparts.

King County Sheriff’s Office

  • Entry – $84,760
  • Mid-Level – $100,330
  • Senior – $127,110

Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office

  • Entry – $71,850
  • Mid-Level – $95,010
  • Senior – $107,710

Pierce County Sheriff’s Office

  • Entry – $84,760
  • Mid-Level – $100,330
  • Senior – $127,110

Thurston County Sheriff’s Office

  • Entry – $79,310
  • Mid-Level – $90,920
  • Senior – $103,440

Spokane County Sheriff’s Office

  • Entry – $66,330
  • Mid-Level – $83,640
  • Senior – $97,480

State Trooper and State Police Salaries

Washington State Patrol

  • Entry – $79,330
  • Senior – $111,430

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.

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