What Does a Police Officer Do?
Police officers, we see them patrolling the streets and issuing parking tickets, but the duties of a police officer encompass much more than that. Yes, the primary role of a police officer is to enforce the law and maintain public order, however, the tasks a particular law enforcement officer is expected to perform on a daily basis will depend on the department they are in and on their location.
In rural areas or smaller agencies, a police officer may be expected to carry out all or several tasks associated with law enforcement. This includes, but is not limited to issuing traffic citations, responding to reports of burglary and murder, and performing child protection services. This is largely due to the fact that rural areas have lower rates of crime and a small population to serve. As such less manpower is required to maintain law and order, but because the workforce is smaller it is absolutely necessary that each officer performs several duties to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
However, in cities and larger agencies, police officers may specialize in one aspect of law enforcement and will be placed and work in a specific unit. Some such units include fraud, murder, drug-trafficking, or rape unit. They’ll train solely to achieve the objectives of that unit and will perform no other duty. Some officer may be assigned to work in public schools and patrol the streets, while some may even work in the courts. Others may be assigned to work on an investigation. These officers are called detectives. They gather evidence through informants, by interviewing witnesses, and by observing, monitoring, and recording the activities of known criminals. To effectively gather this evidence, they must sometimes work undercover in plain clothes putting on the demeanor of a civilian so that they can pass as the average citizen or criminal. Detectives also interrogate suspects with the intention of determining guilt or ruling out their involvement. In the end, once enough tangible evidence has been gathered, detectives can make the arrests themselves. They sometimes even participate in raids. If a detective is assigned a case he will work on it until either the case is dropped or closed.
Some officers will be trained in fingerprint and handwriting analysis and will rarely do field work. However, they will work in tandem with street officers to solve crimes.
Most civilians will know and come into contact with uniformed officers. They are what you think of when the word police officer crosses your mind. They perform a variety of duties that includes responding to domestic disturbances and reports of a burglary. If there is an accident or a broken traffic light you will sometimes see uniformed officers maintaining order by directing traffic. Uniformed officers are oftentimes the first individuals at the scene of a crime. And sometimes that crime scene may have an injured individual in need of medical attention. In such instances, their training in first aid allows them to treat wounded individuals. But the most obvious duty of a uniformed officer is the arrest of individuals engaging in criminal activity, however, their power of arrest is self-contained to their own jurisdiction.
State officers, on the other hand, enforce traffic laws. They, much like uniformed officers, are sometimes the first responders at the scene of a crime and are similarly trained to perform first aid. They can make arrests anywhere in the state that they work in, and they will sometimes help uniformed officers perform their duties. Bur regardless of what duties they fulfill police officers will sometimes be placed in situations where their life is threatened while performing their duties. They must always remain vigilant and calm in trying circumstances.