Police Officer Job Description
We constantly see police officers portrayed in television and movies. The message can be many different things about cops, but all of them are at an extreme. On one hand we have the comedy version of cops being fat, sitting around eating donuts and being surprised by anyone who does anything wrong. Another version is that cops are dirty, trying to get a leg up by doing shady things to get more money, recognition and power. The last image that Hollywood usually portrays (if it’s not one of the first two) is that cops are the saviors and heroes of our world, swooping in to solve crime, catch the bad guy, save the world, and protect people. Hopefully this last portrayal of law enforcement officers is what has made you want to go into the profession.
The image of cops being the good guys, rescuing people in need and sending people away that need to be sent away is why most people decide they want to do the job of a police officer. The reality is all three of the images listed above are stereotypes based on patterns of behavior seen in real life. None of them are true in and of themselves and none of them are completely false either. When it comes down to it, it depends on the individual who works as an officer to decide what kind of cop they are going to be and work towards that goal. Sometimes not deciding means that that decision will be made for you out of necessity or laziness, so it is important to set goal for yourself prior to going into law enforcement as to who you want to be as an officer of the law. Once you have decided that, make sure that you continue to work towards that goal so long as you are doing the duties of the job.
So what are the duties of the job of a police officer? The most obvious and overall duty is to serve and protect the people in the region you work. This should always be the backdrop for what you are doing as a police officer. However, there are other more tedious day to day tasks that need to be done well in order to reach the overall goal of serving and protecting. However small and insignificant these other tasks seem, they are not to be taken lightly. Each duty has a purpose, whether to hold people or officers accountable for action, or to directly protect or defend people, and/or seek to prevent crimes from happening in the first place. Below are a list of other duties and responsibilities that a police officer has.
- Patrol a specific area either by foot, car or motorcycle to catch or prevent broken laws.
- Interview witnesses of crimes and record answers for further reports.
- Catch traffic violations for the safety of the people and write up citations.
- Be the first one to show up on the scene of an emergency to provide stability and security.
- Write missing persons reports and search for missing persons.
- Direct traffic in areas of safety concern, escort convoys for funerals or special events.
- Work the community to assist in their crime prevention ideas (community watch, speak with students at schools etc.).
- Act as security in when large groups of people are gathered to prevent riots.
- Investigate crime scenes and assist detectives in catching the perpetrator.
- Respond to and deal with instances of domestic abuse, car accidents and other emergency situations.
- Always be on the look-out for law breakers and wanted criminals and make arrests.
- Transport criminals and prisoners.
- Serve warrants for peoples arrests and subpoenas for people who need to testify in court.
- Testify in court to what was witnessed of or after a crime or crime scene.
- Write reports about absolutely everything you do to log information that may end up being important even if it doesn’t seem important at the time! This may be one of the most important tasks a police officer has. Report writing is in place in order to uphold the truth, memory doesn’t always serve in the way it should, so it is important for a record of some sort to be kept for everything. This will help maintain officer honesty and integrity, and also help put away the criminals that should be put away. If a law enforcement officer truly wants to be a good honest cop who upholds the truth and the law in order to serve and protect the people, he or she will not take report writing lightly, but instead will be diligent and honest in their written logs.
Police Officer Jobs
As with any job, there is possibility for promotion for a police officer. Promotions for law enforcement officers is similar to military style promotion. A candidate must spend a certain amount of time in one position before they can be eligible for a promotion. They also must be in good standing at the time they are eligible for a promotion, then there is typically a promotional exam. Below is the order of ranking for law enforcement officers.
Patrol Officer: this is where a beginning law enforcement officer starts off. The job of a patrol officer includes (but is not limited to) the list above. After a minimum of 3 to 5 years, a patrol officer is eligible for a promotion if they are in good standing and have a clean record within their agency. At this point they may take an exam to become a Sergeant or Detective.
Sergeant: sergeants work in the field as a supervisor over units (such as patrol units). Sergeants are leaders in action, they have employees under them, but they work side by side training, guiding and working with the people in their unit. These officers want to remain doing their job on the field, just with a greater level of authority and responsibility.
Detective: in most agencies around the country a detective is at the same rank level as a sergeant, but with different responsibilities. Detectives spend their job investigating specific crimes. Often these are the cops we see in television and movies, but unlike the movies detectives spend a lot of their time behind a desk making phone call, writing reports, analyzing evidence and preparing for court appearances.
Crime Scene Investigator: CSI’s are sometimes police officers who have been trained in the science behind investigating a crime scene, but often they are just ordinary people without a police badge who have degrees in biology or chemistry and work behind the scenes at the police station to investigate pieces of evidence such as DNA, blood, or fingerprints.
State Troopers: State troopers focus mainly on traffic (such as major state highways and freeways). They have similar responsibilities to that of a regular patrol officer, but their area of coverage is a lot wider. Rather than working for a city or county, they work for the state police department.
Federal Police: Often referred to as federal agents, federal police work for different departments of the federal government to enforce laws or protect people. The Department of Homeland Security is an example of federal police. Their job is similar to city police but on a national scale or level. Often these jobs are few and far between, and difficult to attain. That is why most people who go into law enforcement become local or state police officers.
After the rank of Sergeant or Detective, there is Lieutenant followed by Captain. Reaching these ranks means you may still be working in a similar manner to before, you simply have more people who report to you, and fewer people that you report to. It’s similar to moving up in management. If you reach the level of Captain you will typically work as a Chief or Captain of your police department. This is similar to the highest level of management.
Jobs for Retired Police Officers
The following lists gives a few ideas of jobs that retired police officers could do, and probably do quite well. The list could be quite long, as there are many people who would want to employ a retired or former cop who was good, honest and well trained.
Ex Police Officer Jobs
Loss Prevention Specialist: the retail industry is always looking for bright minds to help cut down on theft from both within and without of the company. Former cops are great for identifying possible weak points in a system where rules could be broken, and are used to working towards both catching and preventing crimes from happening.
Private Investigator: with the skills of police officer, an individual could be self-employed and hired out to individuals and/or companies to investigate people or circumstances for a variety of different reasons.
Bounty Hunter: those former police officers who loved the chase may do quite well tracking and bringing in criminals who have a bounty on their head.
Security/Body Guard: there are an endless amount of security jobs in this country. Schools, malls, airports, event venues (pretty much any public place) hires people to work some form of security. Another popular route is to work as a personal body guard for someone of notoriety or wealth.
Police Officer Job Outlook
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that law enforcement job growth is lower than the average of other jobs, it is still a growing industry. Over the next decade law enforcement job availability is expected to grow another 7 percent. In addition to the basic growth in the industry there are also job openings from individuals who are retiring, or who had to leave the force for whatever reason. Also, the good news for police officers is that law enforcement has one of the lower numbers of unemployment in our country (also according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).