Police Commissioner: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 23, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a police commissioner. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and background checks to find out if this is the career for you.

While there are no strict education requirements to become a police commissioner, you will most likely need a law enforcement background, and in particular, some supervisory experience. In addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations of a police department, commissioners also develop departmental and public policy, including establishing cooperative relationships with the public and other governmental agencies.

Essential Information

Police commissioners serve their communities by overseeing police departments, either as sworn officers or as civilians selected to sit on a board of police commissioners. City and state governments often head up their police departments by appointing an officer to serve as the police commissioner. This individual is responsible for overseeing the administrative and day-to-day operations of the department and has typically worked his or her way up through the ranks.

Required Education High School Diploma
Other Requirements Law enforcement training, medical and psychological clearances, background checks
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 5% (for first-line supervisors of police and detectives)*
Median Salary (2018) $89,030 (for first-line supervisors of police and detectives)*

'Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics'

Education Requirements

While there are no universal requirements for this position, police commissioners come to the job with significant supervisory experience as police chiefs, deputy police chiefs or other high-ranking positions. Relevant work experience could also include employment with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the armed forces or correctional services. Additional requirements might include the completion of an executive law enforcement training program or a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. Police commissioners could also need to pass a medical and psychological evaluation and a background check.

Job Duties

The general objective of police commissioners is to establish department policies and procedures. They're also responsible for coordinating the activities of various divisions, such as patrol services, criminal investigations and code enforcement, and overseeing the performance of the department's sworn officers and civilian staff. They must also work to develop positive relationships with their communities and collaborate with other government entities, including the district attorney's office, state and county police departments and federal agencies, like the FBI.

Board members are also responsible for setting department policy and procedure, though the nitty gritty of carrying them out is usually delegated to a police chief. Their primary job duty is to hold regular, public meetings to discuss community concerns and policy issues related to law enforcement. A board of police commissioners can also be tasked with appointing a police chief and determining compensation for police department employees. They might also be in charge of disciplining employees and approving budgets.

Police commissioner board members may or may not have experience in law enforcement, and they often come from a wide range of backgrounds. Requirements vary by jurisdiction. In many cases, these police commissioners must be residents of the city in which they plan on serving, and their election or appointment must be approved by the city council.

Salary and Career Information

Police commissioners' salaries vary according to the size of the city for which they work. Compensation might also fluctuate depending on whether a commissioner works for a city or state government. For example, salaries for police commissioners working in large metropolitan areas like New York City and Boston hover at around $200,000 per year. State police commissioners could earn comparable salaries, while police commissioners working in smaller municipalities might earn annual wages closer to $125,000 per year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for supervisors of police and detectives was $93,100 in 2018.

Members elected to civilian police commissioner boards on a part-time basis can receive a small salary of between $2,000 and $7,000. Other members might simply be reimbursed for travel expenses accumulated during their service.

Police commissioners are often individuals who have risen through the ranks of a department, and can also be civilians appointed to a board. In both cases, they set policies and coordinate the activities and staffing of police departments. Salaries can vary according to the location and size of a community, the size of a department, or whether the job is part time or full time.

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