California is fertile ground for federal law enforcement jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, California has 2,315 federal officers with arrest and firearms authority – the most of any U.S. state except Texas. In general, these jobs offer excellent salaries and benefits as well as prestige. Those considering federal law enforcement jobs in California would be wise to get a bachelor’s degree in a field like criminal justice, as virtually all law enforcement positions at the federal level stipulate a bachelor’s degree at minimum.
California’s unique characteristics have drawn many agencies. Its 840-mile coastline and border with Mexico have greatly increased the presence of three agencies in particular:
- U.S, Coast Guard
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Federal agencies have also been a boon for California’s economy. For example, tourism at the state’s many national parks not only adds hundreds of National Park Police and Park Ranger jobs but increases the state coffers by more than a billion dollars a year ($1,192,000,000/in 2011).
Federal Law Enforcement Agencies in California
The following federal law enforcement agencies have an active presence in California:
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) – San Francisco (Northern Division headquarters), Los Angeles (Southern Division Hqts); Dublin, Fresno, Oakland, San Jose and Stockton, Glendale, Van Nuys, Long Beach, Riverside, Santa Ana, Santa Maria, San Diego, Carlsbad, El Centro
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego (field offices)
- Federal Bureau of Prisons – Atwater, Dublin, Lompoc, Los Angeles, Mendota, San Diego, Terminal Island, Victorville
- Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) – Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco (field divisions)
- Federal Protective Services – San Francisco (Region 9 headquarters)
- Federal Reserve Bank Police Department – San Francisco (12th Federal Reserve District headquarters)
- National Park Service (Rangers) – San Francisco (Pacific West Region)
- U.S. Park Police – San Francisco (Presidio)
- U.S. Forest Service – Sacramento, Clovis, Berkeley (research division)
- U.S. Mint Police – San Francisco
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Sacramento (regional office)
- U.S. Marshals Service – San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento
- U.S. Coast Guard – Alameda (11th District Headquarters)
- U.S. Secret Service – Fresno, Los Angeles, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Ana, Ventura (field offices)
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – Andrade, Calexico, Eureka, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Ontario, Otay Mesa, Palm Springs, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, San Ysidro, Tecate, Victorville
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego (field offices)
- U.S. Veterans Affairs Police – Sacramento
U.S. Coast Guard Training Center
Although training for most federal agency jobs is done either in Quantico, VA (FBI/DEA) or at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia which conducts over 100 different agent-specific training courses, the U.S. Coast Guard Leadership Development Center is located in the historical northern California city of Petaluma.
The U.S. Coast Guard has been active in California since 1848 when it was called upon to maintain order in San Francisco Bay during the Gold Rush era. It is the only military organization within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is responsible for protecting California’s 840-mile coastline. With field offices at major ports like San Diego, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond, the Coast Guard conducts search and rescue, marine safety, and aids to navigation operations over 3.3 million miles of water.
The Petaluma center trains new recruits for various jobs within the Coast Guard, such as operations specialists, yeomen, electronics technicians and even cooks. It is also the site of the Chief Petty Officer Academy.
Border-Related Federal Law Enforcement Agencies in California
Bureau of Justice Statistics indicate that roughly 24 percent of all ICE agents, or 1,842 agents, are employed in California and one-third of all CBP agents work in California and Texas (a total of 4, 568 agents). The Border Patrol is at the forefront of the war against drug smuggling from Mexico. The former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was renamed ICE in 2003 when, along with other federal border-related agencies, it became part of the Department of Homeland Security.
In late October, 2013, agents uncovered an underground drug smuggling tunnel extending from San Diego to Tijuana that was about the length of six football fields. The sophisticated structure was equipped with ventilation, lighting and even a rail system. It was the eighth major tunnel found in the area since 2006. Agents say that San Diego’s clay-like soil makes it easier to dig these vast tunnels.
The San Diego Border Patrol also boasts a horseback unit based in Imperial Beach. The 35 equine “agents” live in stables located next to the Imperial Beach office. Agents work eight-hour shifts patrolling the border on their four-legged vehicles. The CBP’s use of horses is increasing, partly because environmentally safe horses can go places motor vehicles cannot.
National Park Careers in California
California is home to nine national parks, more than any other state, making a park service career a good choice. The Golden State was tied with Alaska at eight parks until 2011, when President Obama upgraded Pinnacles National Monument to national park status. The spectacular ruins of an ancient volcanic field are located just east of Salinas Valley in Central California. The other eight national parks in California are:
- Death Valley NP
- Yosemite NP
- Point Reyes National Seashore
- Joshua Tree NP
- Lassen Volcanic NP
- Redwoods NP
- King’s Canyon NP
- Sequoia NP
The two federal law enforcement agencies governing national parks are the National Park Police and the National Park Ranger Service. The Park Police investigate criminal activities and environmental crimes primarily at San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area that encompasses a collection of historical structures, natural areas and public programs that are spread out over 80,000 acres. The area includes Alcatraz Prison Island, Muir Woods and Presidio of San Francisco. Interested persons should call recruiter Sgt. Somers at 202-619-7056.
In addition to enforcing park regulations and statutes, park rangers interpret natural resources by presenting educational programs. They also give guided tours, participate in search & rescue missions, and provide medical assistance and firefighting efforts when needed. Visit the National Park Ranger employment website for information on how to join the service.