Requirements and Retirement: A Guide for Federal Law Enforcement Officers

Federal law enforcement officers have different retirement rules than most other federal employees under FERS.

Part 2 in a 3-part series on federal employees who occupy “rigorous” positions and are subject to “special provisions.” The second job we’ll look at is Federal Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs).

A Federal LEO is an employee of the US Government and works in a variety of occupations dealing with law enforcement and security. 

Despite the numerous types of LEO jobs, there are numerous aspects that these individuals share. They must meet age, physical, and medical requirements that are not needed for most civilian occupations at the federal level. Additionally, similar to Federal Firefighters, there is a mandatory retirement age of 57, but this comes with a retirement calculation that has been modified with “special provisions” to adjust for the limited time they are allotted. 

In this article, we’ll look at the wide array of positions that are considered LEOs, and why almost every agency has a couple of these officers on the payroll. Then, we’ll examine what a LEO can expect in retirement, and also LEAP (Law Enforcement Availability Pay).

Law Enforcement in the federal government encompasses a wide range of jobs. Correctional Officer, Security Guard, Park Ranger, Postal Inspector, and FBI Agent are just a few examples of federal occupations that fall under the LEO category. Therefore, because most federal buildings need guards and almost all agencies have a criminal investigator on staff, there are potential LEO positions in almost every pocket of the federal government’s operations. These positions can be great options for veterans because their military service can boost their pension.

On average, federal officers make more than their local and state counterparts, and can also expect more job security, more relocation opportunities, and a better variety of casework. However, there are also stricter educational, medical, and legal requirements than those seen outside of the federal arena.

Requirements for Federal LEO Jobs

The requisites needed to attain a LEO occupation with the government depend on which position and agency you are applying for. 

Agencies like DHS (Department of Homeland Security) are in more need of border patrol officers, but bureaus like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are much more selective and only hire “as needed.” 

Educational requirements include courses like computer science, law, police science, criminology, or public safety. Emergency Management experience, training, and a relevant internship can help get your foot in the door. 

Other requirements include:

  • US Citizenship
  • Extensive Background Check
  • Physical Evaluation
  • Pre-Employment Drug Test
  • Mobility Statement (Agreement to Relocate as Needed) 

For medical exams, most conditions are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and waivers are available. That being said, vision and hearing usually have to be up to satisfactory standards, and waivers regarding ear or eye ailments are much harder to obtain. For vision, you must have 20/20 vision with a corrective lens or surgery, and at least 20/100 vision without. 

Pay Scales and LEAP 

Depending on the agency and position, federal law enforcement employees can be placed under the General Schedule (GS) pay scale, the LEO pay schedule (GL), or a pay schedule that is set by the individual agency, which is the case for both the Capitol Police and the Secret Service Uniformed Division. 

Jobs categorized as LEO are also more prone to receive overtime, locality pay, and premium pay (working Sundays, holidays, or night shifts). On average, these categories of pay increase a federal officer’s salary by $10,000 per year. 

LEAP Pay is also a consideration for those classified as criminal investigators, who also work at least 2 hours overtime, per day (on average). Law Enforcement Availability Pay must be pre-approved and covers “unscheduled work” – such as security detail for special events or conferences. 

LEAP is useful when calculating a LEO’s pension amount because it can boost a federal worker’s high-3 average salary. Under the older CSRS system, AUO (Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime) is comparable to LEAP, which is for employees under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). LEAP is base pay plus 25%.

LEO Retirement

Beyond that, the retirement rules and provisions that LEOs are subject to are practically similar to those of Federal Firefighters. To read about the Mandatory Retirement Age (57) for Firefighters and LEOs, and also information about retirement eligibility and the Special Retirement Supplement (SRS), check out the second half of the first article in this series. 


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About the Author

Benjamin Derge is a Financial Planner and Chartered Federal Employee Benefits Consultant, (ChFEBC℠), as well as a Writer and Editor for Serving Those Who Serve, a financial firm that specializes in helping federal employees with their benefits.