Certified Public-Safety Executive 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.

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.

Program Structure & Course Content

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.

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CPE 101: Introduction to Executive Leadership | Online

This course focuses on foundational issues in the field of executive leadership, including: management versus leadership; models, theories and styles of leadership; issues specific to public-safety communications leadership; and ethical leadership in the 21st century. The course includes resources and selected readings from renowned professionals and distinguished academic sources that illustrate the core concepts of the course.

Course Topics

  • Management Versus Leadership
  • Model/Theories of Leadership
  • Public Safety Leadership Issues
  • Situational Leadership: Employee
  • Situational Leadership: Leader
  • Adaptive Leadership: The Self
  • Adaptive Leadership: The Organization
  • Leadership Styles
  • Ethical Leadership in the 21st Century

Duration: 12 weeks, online*. Students should expect to spend 3-4 hours each week on coursework.
This course is delivered via APCO’s remote learning platform, accessible 24/7/365.

The second course explores how leaders provide vision, manage change and ensure accountability.

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CPE 202: Defining Leaders | Online*

This course explores the various attributes, skill sets and attitudes that define successful leaders. Topics include the ways leaders define themselves, relate to others, understand their organizations, provide vision and initiate and manage change. The course includes resources from renowned professionals in the leadership field and distinguished academic institutions. Individual and group assignments and exercises during the course help cultivate an awareness among students of their own personal leadership style, strengths and challenges.

Course Topics

  • How Leaders Define Themselves
  • Leadership: Relating to Others
  • Understanding Your Organization
  • Providing Vision
  • How Leaders Take Responsibility
  • Identifying Problems and Recognizing Opportunities For Change
  • Leadership: Formulating Courses of Action
  • Executing Change
  • Managing Ongoing Change
  • Leaders in Action
  • Leadership for the 21st Century

Duration: 12 weeks, online. Students should expect to spend 3 to 4 hours each week on coursework.
This course is delivered via APCO’s remote learning platform, accessible 24/7/365.

The program culminates with the capstone course, during which participants draw on what they’ve learned during the program to tackle challenging case studies.

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CPE 303: Executive Leadership in Action | APCO Headquarters, Daytona Beach, FL

The culmination of the CPE program takes place at APCO headquarters in Daytona Beach, FL.  During this final course, participants put all the key points of the coursework together in a high-paced seminar featuring case studies of leadership in the public sector and insights from distinguished guest speakers with years of experience in the public-safety communications industry.

Duration: Ten days, onsite at APCO Headquarters, Daytona Beach, Florida.

*See requirements for online courses.

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.



There are two pathways to meet eligibility for APCO’s CPE Program:

  • Current certification as an APCO Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL) plus 6 years of experience at the supervisor, manager, or director level in public safety communications.
  • Graduation from a post-secondary degree program with at least an AA degree, or higher.

Admission 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.

Tuition & Application

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.

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.

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.

Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL) Program

Learn to Manage

APCO International’s Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL) Program is designed for individuals interested in developing a solid foundation of management and supervisory skills necessary for successful PSAP operations.

During the RPL Program, you will learn to:

  • Manage organizations and change
  • Communicate with confidence and clarity
  • Develop your talent pool
  • Build connections and consensus
  • Enhance team performance
  • Make a difference within our association and our industry
  • Apply the skills sets learned for the betterment of our association and our industry

How It Works

The first five of the six online RPL courses focus on aspects of managing and supervising that are vital to leading successful teams. The sixth course provides the opportunity for RPL candidates to put their knowledge and skills to use in a service project that benefits our industry. See the RPL Service Project Guidelines and Requirements.

To be eligible to apply, you must be:

  • An APCO International member in good standing with a demonstrated record of service to our association and our industry
  • Willing and able to commit to completing and critiquing the program requirement
  • Dedicated to accepting the challenge of ongoing professional development and service for the betterment of public safety communications

CDEs Earned: 128

Options Term Tuition
Online Six instructor-led online courses,
from 6 to 10 weeks in duration.
(includes $50 distance learning fee)

Registered Public-Safety Leaders are required to recertify every four years. Complete recertification information is provided during the program.

Benefits of Becoming a Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL)

Registered Public-Safety Leader graduates receive:

  • The professional designation “Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL)”
  • A certificate of acceptance into the APCO Institute Registry of Public-Safety Leaders.
  • Recognition throughout the public safety communications industry as a professional with the skills, vision, motivation and commitment to lead our industry to greatness
  • Consideration for enrollment in APCO’s Certified Public-Safety Executive (CPE) Program.

RPL Schedule & Application

Places are available in RPL sessions on the following dates:

November 2021
January 2022
February 2022
March 2022
April 2022
May 2022
June 2022
July 2022
September 2022
October 2022
November 2022

Leadership Programs

Lead the Way With a CPE or RPL Designation

Reach your career goal in your public safety communications field by joining other emergency communications professionals in an APCO leadership program.

What’s the difference?

Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL) Program

The RPL Program is designed for individuals interested in developing a solid foundation of management and supervisory skills necessary for successful ECC operations. It focuses on the skills needed to manage people and small teams.

Certified Public-Safety Executive (CPE) Program

The CPE Program is designed to elevate professionalism, enhance individual performance and recognize excellence in the public safety communications industry. It is focused on the skills and attributes necessary to lead organizations.

rpl logo

The RPL Program focuses on the skills needed to manage people and small teams.

  • Overview of Topics
    • Communication skills
    • Leadership skills, attitude and mindset
    • Planning and conducting productive performance appraisals
    • Interpersonal negotiations: Breaking down the barriers
    • How to build high-performance teams
    • About APCO – structure, governance, etc.


  • Recertification
    • Every four years


The CPE Program is focused on the skills and attributes necessary to lead organizations.

  • Overview of Topics

    Introduction to Executive Leadership

    • Management vs. leadership
    • Models/theories of leadership
    • Public safety leadership issues
    • Situational leadership: Employee
    • Situational leadership: Leader
    • Adaptive leadership: The self
    • Adaptive leadership: The organization
    • Leadership styles
    • Ethical leadership in the 21st century

    Defining Leaders

    • How leaders define themselves
    • Leadership: Relating to others
    • Understanding your organization
    • Providing vision
    • How leaders take responsibility
    • Identifying problems and recognizing opportunities for change
    • Leadership: Formulating courses of action
    • Executing change
    • Managing ongoing change
    • Leaders in action
    • Leadership for the 21st century

    Executive Leadership in Action

    • Myers-Briggs type indicator as a leadership tool
    • Case studies in executive leadership
    • Leadership Live: Industry-leading guest speakers
  • Recertification
    • No recertification required