How to Become a Police Officer in Kentucky

While a college education is not always necessary in most states, Kentucky chooses to require a college education of its police candidates. Degrees in any subject and at any level allow for the growth and development of many practical skills police officers must possess, such as the ability to problem solve and communicate well with others. Take a look at the following list of top online colleges to learn more about colleges that can help you achieve your goals.

Due to the college education requirements to become a police officer in Kentucky, many organizations, such as the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police and the Kentucky Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation, offer scholarships to help students who want to pursue a career as a Kentucky police officer. Pursing an associates or bachelors degree in subjects such as liberal arts, business, or criminal justice may prove helpful in preparing you for a job in law enforcement.

Although a broad area of study, earning a college degree in liberal arts can significantly enhance your interpersonal skills and ability to work well with others. A degree in business can also be valuable, since the concepts learned can easily be applied to the operational activities of a police department, such as management and administrative functions. Finally, a criminal justice degree may be your best option if you seek a concentrated and well-rounded education in legal studies and police work.

Basic Information on Police Officers in Kentucky

In 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were 886 state police officers in Kentucky, which is about average compared to surrounding states. If you are thinking about becoming a Kentucky peace officer, the Kentucky Labor Market Information (KYLMI) database predicts an increase of 440 new police officer positions by 2020. The Kentucky State Police is responsible for setting the minimum state requirements for becoming a cop in Kentucky. While the Kentucky State Police sets the minimum basic police training requirements, individual police departments have the option of increasing their standards, such as requiring a bachelors degree in police science from an accredited college.

There are currently 3 POST basic training academies in Kentucky which include the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Academy, Kentucky State Police Training Academy, and the Louisville Police Department Academy. In order to become a police officer in Kentucky, you must attend training at one of the three training academies. The agency you apply for and are granted employment with will determine which academy you must attend.

While there may be slight differences in the hiring process or physical ability requirements, becoming a police officer in Louisville is fairly similar to becoming one in Lexington or even smaller towns like Arlington. Most police agencies across the state have chosen to uphold only Kentucky’s minimum requirements, which are much higher than minimum requirements in many states around the country. Although many police agencies in Kentucky share the same requirements, it is best to contact the recruiting department of the agency you are applying for to determine if they require anything additional.

What are the POST Minimum Standards to Become a Cop in Kentucky?

  • You must be a United States citizen.
  • You must be at least 21 years of age.
  • You must be of good moral character.
  • You must be in overall good health.
  • You must possess a valid driver’s license.
  • You must have earned 60 semester or 90 quarter hours of education from an accredited college or university, or have a high school diploma plus two years of active military duty, or a high school diploma and two years of previous experience as a sworn law enforcement officer.
  • You must pass a written examination, physical agility test, and oral interview.
  • You must pass a background investigation and polygraph test.
  • You must complete a full medical and a psychological evaluation.

What Could Disqualify Me from Becoming a Kentucky Cop?

You will not be able to become a police officer in Kentucky if you have a poor driving record, as evidenced by more than six or nine driver demerit points, depending on the agency. Another disqualifying factor is a criminal record consisting of any felony convictions. Addiction to any controlled substance or intoxicant would also disqualify applicants. Most police departments will openly discuss their disqualification standards with potential applicants. To determine if you may be disqualified in any way, contact your choice agency and ask to speak with a member of their recruiting department.

Police Training Academies in Kentucky

The Kentucky State Police (KSP) is responsible for establishing the minimum requirements for becoming a cop in Kentucky. In 1948, the KSP was founded by Governor Earl C. Clements and was granted full arresting power over all city and county police departments within the state. It is the mission of the KSP to uphold the highest standards among peace officers throughout the state. All police departments within the state must uphold the KSP’s minimum police hiring requirements in Kentucky. However, they may introduce their own set of higher standards should they deem necessary.

Police departments are allowed to instill their own set of standards above and beyond what the KSP requires, but many do not because the KSP minimum standards are already set relatively high. Different from many other states, Kentucky requires that all officers have the equivalent of a two-year education from an accredited college. While all individuals applying for a job as a peace officer must have a good driving record, the Kentucky State Police has a strict standard of no more than six demerit points compared to Louisville Metro Police Department’s maximum of eight. Because agencies have the authority to hire police officers who meet a higher set of standards, it is best to contact your choice agency to determine what it takes to gain employment with their department.

If you are thinking about training to become a patrol officer in Kentucky, the first course of action is to apply as a deputy or cadet police officer with a local agency. Once an agency has determined you to be a good fit for their organization, the next step is to attend basic police training from one of the local police training academies in Kentucky. Because an official job offer must be made to you before you can attend the academy, undergoing a series of written, oral, and physical evaluations may be required to gain enrollment. By completing the required police training courses in Kentucky, you will receive training in state laws and in practical areas such as the use of firearms.

Regular police training programs are organized in a way that enables you to develop the hands-on experience needed to enter the many law enforcement careers within the state. Typical police training curricula includes the following areas of study:

  • Crime Prevention
  • Highway and Traffic Safety
  • Arrest Methods
  • Criminal Law
  • Defensive Driving

Law Enforcement Jobs and Salary in Kentucky

As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 6,730 police officers employed throughout the state of Kentucky in 2011. This number was significantly lower than reported in Indiana to the north and Tennessee to the south, which each employed about twice as many police officers that same year. Annually, the police officer salary in Kentucky was $40,120, which was only about $1,500 less than Tennessee’s annual salary and about $5,000 less than Indiana’s annual peace officer salary. When comparing the cost of living and crime rates of the three states, Kentucky ranked the lowest in both categories and had a crime rate about 20% lower than Indiana’s and about 37% less than Tennessee’s.

As in most police agencies, Kentucky law enforcement jobs are organized into a hierarchy of authority, similar to that of the military. Kentucky’s Louisville Metro Police Department is a good example of the organization and hierarchies seen in police departments around the state. From highest to lowest in authority, the LMPD agency is organized as follows:

  • Chief of Police – The chief of police manages and oversees the entire police department, including all special units and personnel.
  • Deputy Chief of Police – The deputy chief of police, sometimes called the chief of staff, serves as second in command and commonly serves as the liaison between the community and the department.
  • Assistant Chief of Police – The assistant chief of police typically oversees one specific bureau within the department, such as Investigations or Juvenile Services.
  • Major – Majors are similar to police captains in that they ensure police department employees comply with all policies and procedures.
  • Lieutenant – Lieutenants serve as administrative specialists within an area of the police department. Oftentimes they organize cases and write reports.
  • Sergeant – Sergeants manage the daily operations of various specialized units within the police department, such as the gang squad or the K-9 unit.
  • Police Officer – Once completing POST certified training courses in Kentucky, police officers work directly on the streets of the community to uphold the law. Their shifts often consist of making traffic stops, reporting to emergency calls, and patrolling neighborhoods.