Police officers are public servants tasked with many responsibilities. They protect citizens’ rights and enforce laws. Depending on the needs of their respective communities, they also take on numerous other roles. Read on for a detailed account of the police officer job description, duties, qualifications, training, skills, and work hours.
Job Overview: What Does a Police Officer Do?
Police officers investigate crimes and arrest suspects. However, a police officer’s specific tasks depend on what type of agency the officer works for. Some officers work for local government, such as city police or county sheriffs’ offices. Other police officers work for the state or federal government, such as state patrol officers and federal marshals.
In terms of work environment, some officers work on the streets and routinely enforce laws. Other officers work in county jails. Many officers work in shifts. Others, such as detectives, are on-call and must report to work at a moment’s notice. According to a 2015 survey, the average yearly salary for police officers was $61,270.
Police Officer Job Duties
An officer who works for a large police agency might be assigned a very specific task, and this is because larger agencies have more personnel and resources. An officer in a large agency might work on a drug task force or in a school.
Smaller agencies don’t staff as many departments, and one officer might be responsible for a broader range of tasks. In general, the police officer job description includes the following duties:
- Answer 9-1-1 calls.
- Patrol an area.
- Interview complainants.
- Conduct accident investigations.
- Act as caretaker of property and evidence.
- Escort criminals to and from court.
- Issue traffic citations and direct traffic.
- Interrogate persons suspected of criminal acts, witnesses, and other persons involved.
- Gather evidence.
Police Officer Job Essential Skills
Communication Skills. It is important for the police to establish a rapport with citizens and provide a position of authority. This is why they need good verbal communication skills. Because officers also write many reports, it’s important that they have good written communication skills as well.
Ethics. In order to enforce laws, an officer must have respect for them. A good officer sets an example in his or her community through diligence and honesty. Police should follow laws and also be knowledgeable of laws.
Assertiveness. In order to enforce laws, police must be prepared to deal with resistance from citizens. Officers must be assertive when dealing with the public in order to take control of potentially dangerous situations.
Becoming a Police Officer
The steps to becoming a law enforcement officer may vary according to the hiring agency. Most agencies require candidates to submit an application and resume. Some police departments require applicants to also submit to extensive interviews, which might include a polygraph test and a psychological evaluation.
Most police officer positions are listed on the websites of the city, county, state, and federal agencies who employ officers.
Qualifications and Training
In most cases, to qualify as a police officer, a candidate must have at least a high school diploma or GED, though some positions might require a 4-year degree. In some cities and states, applicants must pass a civil service exam, which is a test of cognitive skills and, in some cases, a physical exam.
Candidates must also complete police academy training, which includes physical and textbook training. During this training, potential officers learn about local and state laws, as well as strategies for enforcing laws. Recruits also learn about weapons, such as firearms, mace, and batons.
Every police academy is unique, and specific training varies depending on the hiring agency. In general, police academy training can be completed in 4 to 6 months.
Most job candidates for entry-level police officer jobs do not have specific work experience as an officer. Some might have military training, which is similar to the physical and educational requirements for a police officer.
Other entry-level officers might have classroom training in criminal justice, which prepares students for some of the tasks performed by a police officer, such as interviewing and writing reports. In general, candidates should have enough cognitive skills to pass written exams and learn about state and local laws.
Workers who have experience performing physical labor tasks such as lifting, might also have an advantage when it comes to the physical requirements of the job.
The police must be available to citizens 24 hours a day, which means most officers do shift work. Officers typically work a 40-hour work week, but may be required to work overtime. Because of the nature of the work, officers are sometimes placed on-call, which means they must be available to cover an extra shift in case a co-worker has an emergency or is unable to work.
In terms of shift work, most shifts range from 8 to 12 hours daily. Officers often take on part-time employment as security guards, and these working hours vary based on the employer.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for police officers and detectives is expected to increase by 4% through 2024. The BLS also estimates that 33,100 new positions will be added or staffed through 2024.
At this time, police officers win around $50,535 a year. They are also typically offered a benefits package that includes health and life insurance. Because most of the required training is completed on the job, officers don’t typically have to complete extensive classroom training or pay university tuition.
Police officers are an essential field of workers, which provides a significant amount of job security.
Most police officers have the power to arrest suspected criminals, enforce laws, and write reports. They are an essential force in cities and states. The police officer job description includes skills such as mental strength, assertiveness, and respect for all laws. The pay and benefits packages are rewarding, especially in comparison to the low personal cost of the training.