Duties of a Police Officer
A career in law enforcement has become more complex in recent years as new and varied threats to the safety of our communities arise. However, the core of police work remains the same. Police agencies are always looking for men and women who can effectively serve their fellow citizens. Service to one’s community is an honorable calling—the term “public servant” is interchangeable with police officer. In the past, “customer service” was not always stressed as much as it is today. Now, agencies are increasingly looking for those who can communicate effectively and provide their clients with exceptional service.
Read on to find out more about the exciting and ever-changing career that awaits you!
Hierarchy of Duties of a Police Officer
No matter what state or county you reside in, the following will apply to you and your team.
First: Help anyone in danger
When it comes to policing, the first priority is to protect the lives of citizens. As a police officer, always keep at the forefront of your mind that your primary duty is to protect life—no matter who you are helping and what situation you encounter. All officers have an obligation and must swear to protect the lives of victims, bystanders, suspects, and offenders—and of course their own lives as well as the lives of fellow officers.
Second: Secure public order
Police officers are also responsible for preserving the peace and maintaining public order on a daily basis. Officers must also maintain the peace during special events such as parades, sports, political events, and other community functions. When a law enforcement team secures public order and preserves the peace, demonstrations and rallies then remain orderly and lawful and a sense of safety and security is maintained. If a riot threatens, officers need to do everything they can to defuse the situation. Any acts of aggression or destruction must be stopped, without inciting further action.
Third: Uphold the law
To uphold the law and prevent crime is of course a main function for police officers. Understanding the law and how to apply it to difficult situations may not always be easy. At any given time, an officer must be trained in how to assess the situation, determining what laws may apply. Protecting crime scenes is also a crucial part of upholding the law: officers must know how to preserve evidence in order to assist in the investigation that will lead to an arrest, prosecution, and conviction of a guilty party. However, the crime scene should only be protected once it is deemed safe and clear by the officers at the scene.
Fourth: Customer service—help those needing assistance
A healthy percentage of a police officer’s calls may be service related. These types of calls are usually not crime related, and the public is looking for the officer to help them in whatever situation arises. These calls could range from medical assistance, traffic accidents with or without injuries, a lost child, mediation between neighbors, and even directions to tourists. You will also be required to respond appropriately to people who can’t adequately care for themselves and require your help. These can include the elderly, children, the mentally or physically disabled, the homeless, and others in similar situations.
Social service calls play a huge role in law enforcement, and the responding police officer must be prepared to serve as the “face” of the department.
Fifth: Tend to your beat or patrol area
As any police officer will tell you, the job isn’t as well plotted as a TV series. In real life, you don’t get a weekly jolt of heart-stopping drama. Most of your job consists of keeping an eye on your little piece of the world. This is especially true now, as community policing becomes more and more widespread. The beat or patrol officer should act as a liaison between the community and the department. Enforcing quality of life (QOL) issues not only helps build trust between the officer and the community, but can also help reduce or prevent criminal behavior.
Getting to know the people within an officer’s community is crucial. This will help the flow and exchange of information that is needed for the officer to properly do his or her job. The officer can quickly learn what “normal” looks like, and can spot anything that’s out of place. Is there anyone around who looks like he or she doesn’t belong? A light on in a store at a time when the owner’s not usually there? If you want to know about what’s going on in the neighborhood, who do you go to?
Sixth: Maintain a sense of ethics
As a police officer, your day-to-day interactions with peoples of all races, nationalities, or diverse beliefs reflect not only on you, but your agency and all other police officers as well. Ethical issues aren’t easy to prioritize, but keep some of the basics in mind as you make decisions.
Remember your oath to serve
You have made a commitment to perform certain duties; you are expected to respond, as an officer of the law, in any situation that requires law enforcement assistance. Police officers work under the motto “To Serve and Protect,” and this concept of helping and serving the public should not be taken lightly and should never be lost in your moral compass as a police officer.
Avoid even the appearance of corruption
This is one of the hot-button areas of law enforcement. Police corruption, or the suspicion of it, has set off more investigations and ruined more careers than any other single issue. Don’t put yourself in the neighborhood of this accusation. Follow your conscience and remember your oath of service; this should help you navigate through those tough decisions.
Don’t play favorites
As you work a beat, you will inevitably develop opinions and attitudes about the people you see regularly. It’s just human nature. You are going to like some of these folks, and others are going to drive you up a wall. You can’t help that, but you can’t let your personal feelings influence your responses. All people are entitled to equal treatment under the law—even really irritating people.
Remember, police officers must learn how to use a lot of discretion and use it wisely. Your ability to do so will result in strengthening your own personal judgment and adherence to the laws and rules that you must follow. As an officer, you must encounter the public for all different reasons. Ultimately, try to remember that you are representing your department at all times, and that the purpose of every encounter is to protect the public.