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You’re considering a career in law enforcement, but you have a few questions.

Ok, maybe more than a few.

You’re not alone, and we’re here to help. We recently asked the officers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department recruitment team about the questions they hear most from potential recruits. 

Check out their list of frequently asked questions – plus a few that Academy applicants are often afraid to ask – below.

What are the minimum requirements to apply to CMPD? 

You must meet certain basic requirements to be considered for a sworn position with CMPD. These criteria span age and residency requirements, criminal and drug-use history, ability to pass academic and physical ability entrance exams, and more.

Visit our Qualifications page for a complete list of standards.

Do I need to have prior experience with firearms?

No, you do not need to have had prior firearms experience to be accepted into the Academy.

As a recruit, you’ll receive extensive training to learn when and how to handle and use not only firearms, but also other weapons such as tasers and tear gas.

How much will I make / be paid?

As of July 1, 2023, the starting salary for an officer before incentives is $56,347. This will increase to $57,192 as of Jan. 1, 2024.

In addition, all lateral officers and new police recruits are eligible for a $7,500 hiring bonus; various education, military, language and shift-differential incentives; and off-duty jobs that pay up to $80+ per hour.

What benefits will I get?

We invest in our recruits. In addition to a competitive base salary, hiring bonus and myriad incentive opportunities, the benefits of being a CMPD officer include:

  • Weekly paycheck
  • 20–30 days of vacation per year (based on years of service)
  • 12 sick days annually
  • 6 weeks of parental leave
  • 2 weeks of leave for annual training for reservists / National Guard
  • Various medical benefits plans, including healthcare savings accounts
  • Basic life insurance
  • 401(k) with 5% employer contribution
  • Tuition reimbursement program
  • Full retirement benefits after 30 years of service
  • Uniforms and equipment provided

Visit our Salary & Benefits page for more details.

How long is the hiring process?

CMPD’s six-step application process can take two to four months, depending on when you make it to the Academy.

That said, there are two ways you can help keep things moving. First, gather your background documents now. This process can take time – particularly if you have to request copies or certified originals – so start as soon as you submit your initial application.

Second, if you live outside the Charlotte region, you can coordinate with your recruiter to schedule steps 4–6 of your application process during a single, two- to three-day trip to Charlotte. Contact your recruiter to learn more about the FAST TRACK option.

Will I be accepted into the Academy if I’ve used drugs?

The short answer is, “It depends.” You can’t have used marijuana or other cannabis derivatives within the past six months. Usage of Schedule I drugs or cocaine within the past three years will also result in automatic disqualification. If it’s been longer, talk to your recruiter.

Be completely honest and transparent regardless of your history. If your background investigation or interview uncovers something you haven’t already disclosed – no matter how small or how long ago – you could be disqualified from the process and any current or future roles with CMPD.

When can I start?

We’re currently accepting new officer applications for Recruit Class 197, which starts in February 2024. 

Our next in-state Lateral Entry Program for certified, sworn law enforcement officers begins in January 2024. Our next out-of-state Lateral Entry program starts in May 2024.

Our six-step application process can take two to four months to complete, so get started now to begin your journey to the badge in Charlotte.

What should I expect in the Academy?

During your six months at the CMPD Police Academy, you’ll receive 900 hours of training in four key areas: academics, physical fitness, firearms and driving instruction.

Your expanding skills and knowledge will be tested regularly throughout your 25 weeks as a recruit. You’ll ultimately complete 35 topic tests and a four-hour state exam.

Want a sneak peek? Check out Season One of Journey to the Badge, our award-winning docuseries that followed Recruit Class 193 through the highs and lows of training.

Do recruits stay / live at the Academy while in training?

No. You can continue to live at home / independently throughout your time at the Academy.

In fact, many recruits cite being able to return to familiar surroundings at the end of a long day as a key factor in their decision to join CMPD versus other nearby law enforcement agencies.

Can I be a police officer if I have a criminal record?

You are not eligible to join CMPD if you have committed or been convicted of a felony. If you have committed a misdemeanor offense, talk to your recruiter. 

S/he can help guide you if you’re open and honest.

When can I apply to work in a specialized unit?

As a CMPD officer, you can choose to work in a variety of specialized units during your career. You’ll get the best of both worlds: the stability of staying with a trusted employer, and the ability to keep your career fresh by switching to a new position every few years.

After gaining two to three years of critical experience on patrol, many officers look to transfer to some of CMPD’s most in-demand specialized units, including Aviation, Bomb, Lake Enforcement, SWAT and more.

Do I have what it takes?

This is a question only you can answer.

A career in law enforcement is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding, but we believe the rewards far outweigh the challenges.

When you join CMPD, you’re not only saying “yes” to a job with purpose. You’re also opening the door to near-limitless opportunities to grow and thrive in a progressive police department and a dynamic, fast-growing city.

We believe you have what it takes. Do you?

If you have a question we haven’t answered here, start a conversation with your recruiter today.

Accelerate your career here

Ready to join the men and women of CMPD? Find a recruitment event near you, or start your new trainee, lateral entry or intermediate entry application today.