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Hiring / Application Process

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From minimum qualifications to appointment, this page will walk you through the application and testing process for new Police Recruits, Reserve Police Officers, Lateral Police Officers, and Academy Graduates.  All testing and selection steps listed below are the same for all levels, with the exception of the police academy which is only required for Police Recruits. 

To view additional requirements for qualification as a Lateral, Reserve, or Academy Graduate candidate, please review the complete job posting on the City's website under "Employment Opportunities" (see link below).


Apply with the Costa Mesa Police Department. The application process is now entirely online.

Click on the following link to view the complete job descriptions and create an account to get started: City of Costa Mesa Employment Opportunities.

Volunteers: Please visit the Volunteer Page for application information.

Minimum Qualifications per P.O.S.T Regulations & Automatic Background Disqualifiers

Age 21 years or older by graduation from the basic academy
No maximum age limit 
Vision 20/20 each eye corrected or uncorrected. Normal color vision. 
Hearing Normal hearing acuity 
Height/Weight In proportion to age and frame 
Education High school graduate or equivalent. Completion of 60 or more semester units of college coursework is highly desirable, but not required 
Citizenship Must be a US citizen or permanent resident alien who is eligible and has applied for citizenship 


Must possess a valid California driver license or be eligible and willing to immediately apply for one (must have license at time of appointment) 


Automatic Disqualifiers

Drug Usage

  • Marijuana use within the last 2 years
  • Any Prior use of LSD, Ketamine, Heroin, PCP, Methamphetamine, other Amphetamines, Cocaine, Magic Mushrooms, Ecstacy, Bath Salts, Illegal Injectable Steroids or any other "hard" drugs not listed
  • Sales/Manufacturing/Growing/Transportation (with the intent to sell) of illegal or prescription drugs
  • Currently living or associating with anyone using illegal drugs or involved in illegal activity

Theft / Criminal Behavior

  • Thefts from current employer (excluding pens; pencils, etc) within the last 2 years
  • Thefts/Shoplifting in excess of $950 within the last 5 years
  • Any Felony Conviction
  • Currently on probation / parole / or supervised release
  • Deemed "Primary" or "Dominant" aggressor in any Domestic Violence incident
  • DUI within the last 7 years
  • Illegal sex act per the Penal Code
  • Child Pornography


  • 3 at fault accidents in last 3 years
  • 5 or more moving violations in last 7 years

Work History

  • Excessive tardiness/absences in past 2 years (non medical or family leave related)

Testing and Selection Process Steps

P.O.S.T Entry-Level Law Enforcement Test Battery (PELLETB)
Once you've submitted your online application, you will receive notification from Human Resources whether you've been selected to continue in the testing process.  The first step is the written exam which is the P.O.S.T Entry-Level Law Enforcement Test Battery (PELLETB).  The Costa Mesa Police Department uses a Total T-Score of 45 as the pass point.  Candidates who achieve a Total T-Score of 45 or higher will continue in the testing process.  Information on the PELLETB exam can be found on the P.O.S.T website at the following link:

Please note: Walk-ins are NOT accepted at any examinations.  You must submit your application in advance to the Human Resources Division and be invited to testing.

Physical Agility Test (PAT)
The video below details what you will be tested on at the PAT:

Oral Board Interview
You will be asked questions by a panel of Costa Mesa Police Department personnel to assess your experience/preparation, communication, reasoning, & decision-making skills, and other key components that are relevant to assess your qualifications for the position.  Selected candidates who successfully pass the written, physical agility, and oral interview will be placed on an eligibility list. Candidates selected to proceed from the eligibility list will be scheduled for the following steps below. Advancement in the hiring process is contingent on passing each step.

Polygraph Examination
You will attend an appointment with a polygraph examiner, during which you will be connected to a polygraph (lie detector). The examiner will determine the truthfulness of your responses to questions including, but not limited to, information regarding your application materials, personal associates, previous employment, substance use, economic status, driving record, gambling habits, and criminal behavior. Before your test, the procedure will be completely explained and you will have the opportunity to ask questions. Every effort will be made to ensure you are comfortable and ready to proceed with the examination.

Background Investigation
You will attend an interview with a background investigator, who will then conduct a thorough investigation of your background. The background investigator will contact people who know you, such as previous employers, relatives, and references, in an effort to verify relevant information about you. Your credit status, driving record, and criminal history will also be explored. For purposes of the latter, you will be fingerprinted. All information you provide will be maintained with the strictest confidentiality.

Chief's Interview
If everything from your Background Investigation report meets the Department standards, you will attend an interview with the Chief of Police to assess your preparation and compatibility with the organization.

Psychological and Medical Examinations
The psychological and medical examinations will be given to candidates who have been offered employment, with their employment contingent on passing both examinations.  You will be examined by professionals chosen by the City of Costa Mesa, who will help determine if you meet the requirements to become a Costa Mesa Police Officer.

Final determination of appointment is made by the Chief of Police, upon satisfactory completion of all the above procedures.

Hiring ProcessAcademy
After your appointment, you will be sponsored to attend a 28-week training academy. The Costa Mesa Police Department sends most Recruits to the Orange County Regional Sheriff's Regional Training Academy. At the academy, you will attend lectures and demonstrations, study textbooks, review laws, court cases, and law enforcement articles. You will complete homework, reports, and examinations on course material. Course subjects will include law enforcement principles, criminal law, rules and evidence, search and seizure, arrest and control methods, traffic laws, juvenile laws, first aid, care and use of firearms, patrol theory and methods, physical conditioning, and self-defense.

Additional Preparation
Santa Ana College offers courses to help prospective applicants prepare for a career in law enforcement.  For more information, please visit their website at: Santa Ana College Criminal Justice website.

Compressed Testing Option
Please note: For candidates that are active duty military, currently attending a police academy as an independent, require an approved accommodation, or can show proof of residency over 250 miles from the City of Costa Mesa, testing accommodation is available subject to approval. Testing will include the following components in a condensed version to include the P.O.S.T PELLETB written examination, physical agility test, oral interview, and a pre-background interview. In order to be considered, please follow the instructions to request compressed testing.  Instructions are included within your invite to the written exam.