What does a Police Officer do?

Median Pay $62,960
Growth Rate 7%
Citation Retrieved from BLS.gov

A police officer is sworn to defend and protect the lives and property of people. They gather facts in crimes and present evidence of crimes. They can arrest or detain people who break the law. They respond to emergencies, patrol assigned areas, and write detailed reports on criminal finding and arrests. Police officer sometimes testify in court and must enforce the law.

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How to Become a Police Officer

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The minimum requirements to become a police officer is that you must have a high school diploma and attend the police academy. Here you are trained in patrol, traffic control, firearm use, self-defense, first aid, and emergency response tactics. Some decide to go further and advance their skills by gaining a college education especially those wanting to become a detective or other specialize is particular criminal area such as forensics, wild life protection, or the federal government.

Officers earn their bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice or law enforcement. Courses include state and local laws and constitutional law, civil rights, and police ethics in addition to the practical experience one gains in the police academy. Presenting oneself as physically fit and scoring high on tests would also be an advantage.

Job Description of a Police Officer

A police officer is usually assigned to a specific patrol area where they would be responsible to enforce the law, look for suspicious activity and may even search and/or arrest suspected criminals. They respond to emergencies, enforce traffic laws and would investigate complaints. Police officers often work with a partner and wear uniforms in order to be properly identified by the public.

In the police force, strong communication skills are needed as well as listening skills and are used on a daily basis in order to interact with the public, co-workers, supervisors and other teams such as in an emergency situation. They should be physically fit as the job often requires running, apprehending suspects and responding to emergencies of all kinds.

A police officer also works on specific crimes, for instance, special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams, narcotics or even canine corps. However, one would usually have served for some length of time on patrol before advancing to these specific crime units. A police officer may also be assigned a designated area to watch for speeding violators in traffic. Some other areas of serving would be as a crimes investigator, solving murders or other crimes. The police force is both a physically and mentally demanding career with a high stress level and is considered very dangerous.

Police Officer Career Video Transcript

Police patrol officers monitor community safety and respond to calls from the public. Whether on foot, on wheels, or on horseback, the job of patrol officers is to be alert for any threat to public safety, from enforcing traffic laws, to helping a lost child, or responding to an unfolding and highly dangerous situation.

Police officers are licensed to carry guns, which comes with great responsibility. They must pass rigorous academic, psychological, and physical exams to prove they have what it takes to balance their responsibilities. Even in life-threatening situations, officers need to stay calm, think clearly and make good on-the-spot judgments. While Hollywood makes police work seem constantly action-packed, most patrol officers will tell you the job is often very routine. Police work requires patience and paperwork, documenting every incident in detail. Officers are drug-free and have no felony convictions on their record, and those out in the community are expected to be physically fit.

Some departments require a high school diploma, while others prefer a college degree in criminal justice, although other majors are often accepted. Speaking a second language is a plus. Police patrol officers are true public servants who are expected to conscientiously and courageously serve and protect.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Police and Detectives.

National Center for O*NET Development. 33-3051.01. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.