KPD says, “Join our team”

A female recruit sweats out civilian life at the Knoxville Police Department’s Training Academy. Photo by Shawn Poynter, courtesy of KPD.

If you’ve ever thought of joining the Knoxville Police Department, now may be the time to do it. 

Starting tomorrow until April 30, KPD will be accepting applications for police recruits, transfers from other departments and police cadets, officials said.

“We are seeking qualified candidates from a diversity of backgrounds with a passion and heart for service,” KPD spokesman Scott Erland said Tuesday. “There is no better profession to effect positive change in the community and there is no better place to do it than Knoxville. If you have a desire to make a difference, we encourage you to apply to join our team.”

The need for new officers is particularly acute right now.  The department is approximately ten percent understrength while having to grapple with an unprecedented wave of violence. There were 37 homicides in the city in 2020,  plus another 15 have taken place since Jan. 1 of this year.

KPD currently has 375 sworn officers, including recent academy recruits, and approximately 100 civilian employees.

“Our authorized strength is 416, so we are still well below that number with a significant number of officers at retirement age,” Erland said.

When asked why KPD is short on sworn personnel, Erland said pretty much every police department in the country has experienced problems recruiting and retaining officers.

KPD trainees getting into shape at the Training Academy. Photo by Shawn Poynter, courtesy of KPD.

“There are a number of factors that have likely played a role in that, including increased public scrutiny and the fact that there are plentiful job opportunities that offer equal or greater pay with significantly less stress and danger,” he explained. 

“Additionally, low unemployment rates impact the number of applicants or people looking for jobs. I know the unemployment rate jumped due to the COVID pandemic, but it was at historically low levels in the years prior to that,” he said. 

After completing training and being sworn in, KPD officers start at $40,000 if they have a high school diploma or GED, or $43,000 if they’ve earned a bachelor’s degree. They receive full health benefits, a $500 annual uniform allowance, and a $3,000 annual tuition reimbursement program. Each year they also get nine paid holidays, a dozen sick days, and earn ten days of leave. They can eventually earn as much as $54,810 per year under the department’s pay scale.

To become a police recruit, potential candidates must be at least 21 years old, have no felony convictions, and show “integrity and good moral character,” according to KPD’s recruiting website.

Applicants should begin by uploading their resume, birth certificate, high school diploma/GED, or DD-214 if a military veteran. Next, they must go through a hiring process that includes physical and psychological exams, written tests and an interview.

The next step is the KPD Academy’s Basic Recruit Training, where they will spend 24 weeks learning investigations, firearms and a slew of other law enforcement-related skills. They are paid at the rate of $36,593 a year while attending the academy.

There are different qualifications and compensation for recruits, cadets and officers from other agencies.

“Just to be clear, because people often confuse this, police recruits are those 21 years or older who are training to become sworn police officers,” Erland explained. “Cadets are those between the ages of 17-20 who are not fully sworn police officers but do have the ability to do non-enforcement activity while receiving law enforcement training. That is more of a stair-step program towards hopefully becoming a fully sworn police officer…. People often use recruit and cadet interchangeably when they are not the same thing here at KPD.”

Erland said that anyone interested in the process should go to the web site, which he described as “a one-stop resource for everything anyone needs who might be interested in joining the KPD.”

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at

Published on March 31, 2021

KPD headquarters near downtown. Photo by J.J. Stambaugh