Police officers come in many forms: deputy sheriffs, constables, marshals,
community service officers, troopers and rangers. It all depends on which
organization hires them.
Whatever their title, most police officers spend much of their time responding
to crimes in progress, patrolling assigned areas to maintain public safety,
interviewing witnesses and suspects, apprehending fugitives, collecting evidence,
writing reports and providing testimony in court.
In small communities and rural areas, police officers are less specialized
and have general law enforcement duties. In the course of a day, they may
direct traffic at the scene of a fire, investigate a burglary or give first
aid to an accident victim.
In large police departments and federal agencies, officers are often assigned
to a specific detail. Some may become experts in firearms, handwriting and
fingerprint identification. Or they might serve on mounted and motorcycle
patrol, harbor patrol, canine patrol or emergency response teams.
Police officers in all areas are required to file reports of their activities,
often involving long hours of paperwork. "You wouldn't believe the amount
of paperwork," says Constable Allan Lucier.
In the U.S., the role of the police officer has changed over the last decade.
These days, the emphasis of law enforcement is on community policing.
Community policing means police encourage people in the community to help
identify and solve recurring problems. It's viewed as proactive rather than
Police officers work for city and community police departments, as well
as state or federal law enforcement agencies.
Police officers usually work a 40-hour week, but paid overtime work is
common. Shift work is often necessary because police protection must be provided
around the clock.
Police officers need to meet physical agility, strength, fitness and vision
requirements. They also need to be prepared for the risks associated with
pursuing speeding motorists, apprehending criminals and dealing with public
This might be difficult for a physically disabled person.
"If you're disabled, it's more than likely that you're not going to be
able to pass the physical agility test," says Sergeant Bill Smith. He adds
that in some of the larger agencies, there might be specialized work that
a disabled person might be able to do.