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Certified Public-Safety Executive (CPE) Program

Discover the leader in you.

APCO’s Certified Public-Safety Executive (CPE) Program is designed to elevate professionalism, enhance individual performance and recognize excellence in the public safety communications industry. Participants may be managers, supervisors, agency executives or others whose work and life experiences have motivated them to learn the necessary skills to successfully lead organizations within the complex and ever-changing environment in which public safety agencies operate.

“We’re family now … I really appreciate this CPE group and what we do for each other.” 
Mark Spross, RPL, CPE

Drawing on resources from renowned leadership professionals and distinguished academic sources, the program allows participants to explore topics that include management versus leadership, models/theories of leadership, leadership styles, public safety leadership issues, and executing and managing change. Program instructors include master’s and doctoral level professionals in the field of organizational development and leadership who bring a wealth of academic and practical experience to the program.


Session Dates

  • CPE Class 12: January 5, 2022 - July 22, 2022 (capstone course July 11-22, 2022) - Deadline to apply is October 15, 2021

Program Structure

The program consists of two 12-week online courses and one 10-day capstone course at APCO headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida.

  • The first of the online courses begins with an introduction to leadership concepts, leadership issues, models of leadership and leadership in the 21st century.
  • The second course explores how leaders provide vision, manage change and ensure accountability.
  • The program culminates with the capstone course, during which participants draw on what they’ve learned during the program to tackle challenging case studies.

Graduates of the program earn the professional designation of Certified Public-Safety Executive (CPE) and are recognized at APCO's Annual Conference & Expo in August of each year.


At a minimum, an applicant must:

  • Possess an associate’s degree or higher OR
  • Be a graduate of APCO’s Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL) Program OR
  • Have a high-school diploma AND a minimum of 10 years’ experience in public safety communications at the supervisor, manager, or director level.

Admittance to the CPE Program is highly competitive, and space in the program is limited. Due to the rigor of the curriculum, preference will be given to individuals who have at least a bachelor’s degree and significant experience in public safety communications or related occupations. Not all who apply will be admitted.

The CPE admissions committee will evaluate each application using metrics related to the:

  • Applicant’s level of education
  • Applicant’s length and types of experience in the public-safety communications industry
  • Quality of the CPE application (should be well-written in complete sentences and free from grammatical and typographical errors)
  • Quality of the applicants’ responses to questions regarding:
    • Personal and professional challenges faced
    • How they have overcome those challenges
    • The current state of public safety communications
    • What challenges they believe are facing the industry
    • How participating in the CPE Program will help them address these industry challenges

NOTE: No more than two applicants from a single agency will be admitted to a CPE class at any one time.

The Commitment

The CPE program is a rigorous, demanding endeavor that requires serious commitment by each participant. Students should be prepared to devote a considerable amount of time to coursework, including individual and group assignments and discussions. The program is fast-paced and reading-intensive, and demands that students keep pace with the workload and participate fully in both the online and capstone courses.

A lack of commitment will not only negatively impact the success of the individual student but of the entire class. For these reasons, applicants are encouraged to carefully consider their commitment to the program before applying.

“CPE has had the most impact of anything in my life.”
Kimberly Burdick, RPL, CPE


Cost for the CPE Program is $3,500 per person and includes all course materials and distance learning fees. The cost does not include travel and accommodations for the two-week capstone course at APCO headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida.

A fee of $250 must be paid at the time of application.

Program participants may apply for tuition assistance through APCO’s scholarship program, which is open for applications from January through March each year. Scholarship funds may be used for tuition only and may not be used for expenses related to travel, food or lodging.

Read FAQs about the program and estimated costs.

Application Process

The application process is designed to identify individuals whose professional goals align closely with the goals of the CPE Program. APCO is committed to selecting only those applicants who are fully committed to the successful completion of the program.

As part of the process, applicants are asked to reflect on personal and professional experiences that have influenced their careers and to articulate their interests, career goals, as well as obstacles and solutions to those goals. For this reason, applications must be submitted by the individual interested in attending the program.

An application fee of $250 must accompany the completed application form and associated documents. The fee will be deducted from tuition for successful applicants. Those not accepted to the program will receive a full refund.

Applications for the program are accepted year-round. Dates for future classes will be announced at a later date

Go to online application form.

It is critical that no one should submit an application until the applicant can positively affirm that:

  • His/her agency head has approved the applicant’s attendance
  • Full funding has been approved, and that payment of the tuition balance will follow within 45 days after the applicant’s acceptance.