Exploring Careers in Law Enforcement: Police Careers and Opportunities (page 3)
Police work offers an opportunity for a satisfying and rewarding career. Before you apply, you will want to find out everything you can about what police officers do on the job. You will also want to learn about all the different assignments available to police officers. Which one is right for you? To answer that question, think about your reasons for wanting to become a police officer.
Why Become a Police Officer?
Why a person should become a police officer is a question each potential recruit must ask themselves. Some people become police officers because they want job security. Police officers have a steady job, with a steady paycheck, and a limited chance of being laid-off. Some people become police officers because they want to work outdoors for a few years before changing to an indoor job. Still other people become police officers to avoid close supervision, while others become police officers because they want to help others or give something back to their community. You must determine for yourself what your career goals are and whether or not entering law enforcement will allow you to achieve those goals.
The authors of this book recommend that those who are interested in entering the police field attend a Citizen's Police Academy and become an auxiliary police officer or reserve officer in their community to get a better understanding of police work. They can also request to do volunteer work for their police department. The more a person knows about a career in policing, the better position that individual will be in to make the decision that a career in law enforcement is the right choice.
Duties of a Police Officer
In some states, state laws specifically explain the duties of police work, while in other states, each police department is allowed to define the scope of its responsibilities. For example, the State of Missouri defines policing for the police departments of St. Louis and Kansas City (MRS Section 84.320 (2006)), specifically spelling out the duties of municipal police officers. The job description defined by the State of Missouri provides an excellent example of both the expectations for Missouri police officers as well as for police officers everywhere. The statutory duties for a municipal police officer in St. Louis and Kansas City are to:
- Preserve the public peace.
- Prevent crime and arrest offenders.
- Protect the rights of persons and property.
- Guard the public health.
- Preserve order at every public election, and at all streets, alleys, highways, waters, and other places.
- Prevent and remove nuisances on all streets, alleys, highways, waters, and other places.
- Provide a proper police force at fires for the protection of firemen and property.
- Protect transients at public wharves, airports, and railway and bus stations.
- See that all laws relating to elections and to the observance of Sunday, and relating to pawnbrokers, intemperance, lotteries, policies, vagrants, disorderly persons, and the public health are enforced.
- Suppress gambling and bawdyhouses, and every other manner and kind of disorder and offense against law and public health.
- Enforce all laws and ordinances which have been passed or may be subsequently passed.
Opportunities for Women and Minorities
Since the 1970s the opportunities for women and minorities in policing have increased substantially as law enforcement agencies have begun to recognize the importance of ensuring that the police force they hire resembles the public it polices. Today, police departments do not have a sufficient number of women and minorities applying for policing to meet that goal. For this reason, many police departments are actively recruiting women and minorities because they would like the opportunity to hire them. In today's policing environment, both women and racial minorities who meet the criteria and qualifications to be police officers have unlimited opportunities.
Affirmative Action is a part of the civil rights laws that has been implemented through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) attempt to enforce programs established by Congress. EEOC is an independent federal agency that oversees federal civil rights laws. EEOC is the agency that investigates cases of discrimination and takes action to eliminate discrimination when they locate it. Affirmative Action policies and federal law make it a crime to discriminate against any person because of race, national origin, religion, gender, age, or sexual orientation. This means that a person cannot be discriminated against in the hiring process, promotional process, or in wage determinations.
Assignments for Police Officers
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 a list of the many positions available within law enforcement: automobile patrol, foot patrol, traffic officer, bicycle patrol, motorcycle patrol, horse patrol, marine patrol, aircraft patrol, juvenile officer, crime scene investigator, crime prevention officer, community policing officer, hostage negotiations teams, bomb squad officers, warrant officers, airport police, housing police, port authority police, and transit police.
Click here to read an article describing fully the assignments for police officers.
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