Police Officer Career, Job, Degrees and Training Information

State and local police officers are responsible for general law enforcement duties. Police officers are responsible for responding to calls for law enforcement service and maintain regular patrols. Quite a bit of their time is dedicated to responding to calls as well as doing paperwork. They may also direct traffic at the scene of an accident, investigate burglaries, or provide first aid to accident victims. In larger police departments, police officers are usually assigned to a specific duty.

Many police agencies located in urban locations are heavily involved in community policing'this is where a police officer develops relationships with the citizens in local neighborhoods and assists in mobilizing these citizens to help in the fight against crime.

Police agencies are typically organized into specific geographic districts, with uniformed officers assigned to patrol a certain region. Officers that have a large jurisdiction often patrol with a partner. Their goal is to become familiar with the area they patrol and remain alert for anything unusual. Suspicious circumstances and hazards to public safety are investigated or noted by polic officers, and they are then dispatched to individual calls for assistance within their district. During their patrols or shifts, they may identify, pursue, and arrest suspected criminals; resolve problems within the community; and enforce traffic laws.

Many police agencies have special geographic jurisdictions and enforcement responsibilities. You'll find specialized police agencies at public college and university campus, public schools, and at large transportation systems and facilities. The majority of law enforcement professionals in special agencies are uniformed officers.

Some police officers specialize in a particular field, such as training and firearms instruction, chemical and microscopic analysis, or handwriting and fingerprint identification. While others work with special units, such as bicycle, horseback, motorcycle, or canine corps; harbor patrol; emergency response teams; or special weapons and tactics (SWAT). A few local and special law enforcement officers specialize in performing jail-related duties or work in courts.

Education and Training

Training requirements for police officers and sheriffs depend on the type of city they work in. Larger cities usually require bachelor's degrees in criminal justice while smaller cities usually require candidates to have a high school diploma. Most municipalities now require candidates to receive an associate's degree. Candidates usually must take classes in criminal investigation, criminal law, administration, community relations, and corrections. State or federal officers receive additional training after being hired.

Special Skills

Police officers must have excellent communication skills, good judgment and decision making skills, and good listening skills. Officers need to write clear reports that will be understood in court. Police officers must be in good shape and must have accounting, weapon, computer, and business knowledge.

Salary and Benefits

New police officers should earn between $25,000-45,000 annually, and in some areas $18,000. However, with 6 years of experience, they can earn $50,000. Most police departments offer attractivebenefits.

According to the International City-County Management Association's annual Police and Fire Personnel, Salaries, and Expenditures Survey, average salaries for sworn full-time police offer positions in 2008 were as follows:
  • Police chief – $90,570 to $113,930
  • Deputy chief – $74,834 to $96,209
  • Police captain – $72,761 to $91,178
  • Police lieutenant – $65,688 to $79,268
  • Police sergeant – $58,739 to $70,349
  • Police corporal – $49,421 to $61,173
In addition to the usual benefits'paid vacation, sick leave, and medical and life insurance'most police and sheriffs' departments provide their officers with special allowances for uniforms. Many officers retire at half-pay after 20 years of service while others are eligible to retire with 30 or fewer years of service.

Working Conditions

Police officers and sheriffs can be called to any region within their jurisdictions. Officers spend time at the police department performing administrative functions. Officers also spend time patrolling the streets, visiting jails, courtrooms, and schools.

Career Outlook for Police Officers

With crime increasing throughout the country, the demand for police officers and sheriffs will continue to rise. However, many municipalities must cut budgets, leading to fewer job openings.

Many police offers will use their training and experience to position themselves for career advantagement opportunities in other fields. Some police officers will pursue career opportunities in a other arms of state and federal law enforcement including U.S. Marshal, Sheriff, DEA, CBP, FBI, etc., etc.

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