Exploring Careers in Law Enforcement: Assignments for Police Officers (page 2)
In the field of policing, there are a wide variety of positions that police officers can hold during their careers. Many factors influence whether an individual police officer will hold one position throughout their career or many different positions. The leading factor influencing a police officer's career is the desire of the officer to achieve the skills necessary to be placed in a new position. Additionally, factors such as time in rank and the size of the police department impact the opportunities available to police officers. Following is an outline of the many positions available within law enforcement.
The most common method of patrol for decades has been the automobile. The patrol vehicle offers mobility and covers a large geographical area or beat. The automobile offers a fast response in emergency situations and can carry important equipment like fire extinguishers, additional ammunition, computers, radar units, and informational manuals. The patrol vehicle is also helpful for pursuing suspects in vehicles and for transporting prisoners.
Foot patrol officers are useful for special events, such as parades and dignitary protection, and for public relations (PR). They are also useful for patrolling shopping malls, beaches, apartment complexes, schools, and areas where a motorized vehicle cannot gain access. Foot patrol officers can function as community organizers and dispute mediators and be important links between social agencies, law enforcement, and members of the community in need of specialized assistance.
Many cities have a traffic division with a team of police officers assigned to monitor traffic. The traffic officer's ultimate goal is to minimize serious and fatal collisions. To achieve this goal, these officers are responsible for the enforcement of traffic laws and for investigating serious automobile accidents. Accident reconstruction is also a common responsibility of the traffic division.
Bicycles have been used by police officers since someone thought they provided a good way to chase down horse-drawn vehicles. Today, bicycles continue to be an effective transportation tool because they offer police officers more speed, mobility, and flexibility than they have on foot. They are useful for patrolling college campuses, parks, beaches, housing areas, and congested downtown areas.
Motorcycles have been traditionally used for traffic enforcement and control. A few cities also use them for escort services for funerals or for parades. The motorcycle has maneuverability and can move through crowds of people or traffic more easily than a conventionally sized vehicle. Police officers often drive in dangerous situations, and motorcycles offer little protection from weather, other traffic, or situations involving crime.
Horse patrol units are often developed because they are excellent PR tools. They also provide important services to law enforcement. The mission of mounted patrols is to provide high visibility patrol to the busiest sections of urban areas. Mounted patrols are also used for crowd control tactics and formation riding and to assist with non-mounted police tactics.
In addition to drug smuggling along America's coastlines, predatory crimes occur on rivers, lakes, and the ocean. For this reason, agencies with authority to police waterways often develop marine patrols. The marine patrol has three main functions: rescue and recovery, agency assistance, and law enforcement. Police respond to calls for assistance from boaters, kayakers, or anyone else on the water in distress. They assist other agencies, such as the United States Coast Guard, United States Customs, or other marine patrol units, who need back up or are too far away to respond to a call. The marine patrol can also be used to transport police or fire personnel to places that are easier reached from the water.
Many police departments are developing aircraft patrol units. These units provide aerial support to ground-based units in traffic law enforcement. They are also used to assist other enforcement agencies by providing air support for such things as drug activity surveillance, covert surveillance, tracking of criminal suspects, VIP escort support, searches for missing persons and downed planes, aerial photography, and emergency organ transport.
Helicopter units provide many of the same services as patrol planes, but they may be called on to provide additional types of assistance. Helicopter units may be needed to assist with firefighting efforts, to transport severely injured accident victims, or to assist with ground mapping efforts.
Many medium-sized and large police departments assign police officers to units designed to address issues with juveniles. The laws relating to juvenile offenders differ from the criminal laws for adults because juveniles are not usually considered criminals: they are considered offenders. States have adopted specific laws and procedures for the dealing with juvenile offenders. Because state laws deal with juveniles in a non-criminal manner, officers assigned to deal specifically with juveniles require specific training on the procedures, laws, and methods for speaking to, investigating, and detaining juveniles.
The primary purpose of the police canine unit is to improve law enforcement while reducing the jeopardy to human police officers. The canine functions as a psychological deterrent to the law violator while at the same time serving as an effective PR tool. Officers and their dogs are used for search and rescue operations both inside buildings and in the wilderness. They may be trained to respond to the presence of drugs or explosives without the requirement of a search warrant. They may be sent to bring down a suspect who is able to outrun a human police officer or be trained to stand guard and protect vulnerable human beings.
Crime Scene Investigator
Several medium-sized and large police departments have crime scene investigators whose job is to collect evidence. Police officers assigned to this position usually receive training on how to investigate a crime scene. This position often requires a bachelor's or even master's degree in criminal justice, forensics, or biological sciences. The job of the crime scene officer is to take all necessary precautions when dealing with crime scenes, especially those relating to health and safety regulations. Crime scene officers are expected to keep abreast of new technical developments in forensics and in analyzing the crime scene.
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