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Criminal Justice Articles

How do I know if a career as a Police Officer is right for me?

A career as a police officer is an exciting one that commands respect. Serving as an officer of the law is a job that brings the satisfaction of making a difference in the lives of others. The question is-- can you handle this type of career and all that comes with it? Here are some details that should be strongly considered, and that should help you to gauge if you are up to the task:

The Duties Involved:

A career as a police officer involves protecting the public. That is an officer's number one priority. In order to fulfill this role, some of the duties include:

  • Protecting the population against crime
  • Keeping civil order
  • Prevention of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and drug sales
  • Enforcing traffic laws
  • Responding to 911 calls, which may include domestic violence, shooting, burglary, and more
  • Surveillance of neighborhoods, keeping a watchful eye out for suspicious behavior
  • Weapon control
  • The enforcement of all laws
  • Investigative work

The Dangers and Risks Involved:

Aside from these duties and responsibilities, which can be quite stressful, a career as a police officer can be very unpredictable. Officers put themselves in harm's way on a daily basis in order to protect the general public and respond to emergency calls.

Police officers run the risk of being wounded, attacked or even killed by those who disagree with society and the laws set forth.  Suffering from friendly fire is a risk as well.

Officers are at risk of vehicle crashes during a high speed chase or response to an emergency call. Not only must an officer possess excellent hand-eye coordination, but they must be mentally able to make good split second decisions that involve fast and responsible assessment skills. Unavoidable contact with individuals who may be infected with communicable diseases, especially HIV, puts officers at risk of health problems.

Long and irregular work hours are usually the norm, as well as constant exposure to the unpleasant parts of society. All of these facts combined often can result in severe mental stress, which may contribute to the risk of family and personal problems as well.

To give you an idea of the risks involved, these statistics were compiled in 2005 by the US Department of Labor Statistics:

  • 18,838 police officers and law enforcers died while on duty
  • 44% of these deaths were from assaults
  • 35% were vehicular-related deaths (3% while in pursuit)
  • The rest of these deaths were attributed to heart attacks while attempting an arrest, pursuing criminals, or contracting diseases.

Can You Be Trusted and Scrutinized?

A police officer is entrusted with a great amount of power and authority. No other profession involves the power to take away another person's freedom, and in some cases, even take away an individual's life, when it's the lawful thing to do.

The personality and character of a police officer should be above reproach. Dealing with frustration, anger, fear, and a myriad of other unpleasant emotions on a consistent basis has caused police officers to occasionally make hasty and incorrect decisions.

These factors must be responsibly weighed when considering a career as a police officer. At times, an officer may make a decision that is right, but may end up criticized or misunderstood. A career as a police officer is not for the weak in spirit.

Making the Choice

If an individual still feels the pull towards a career as an officer of the law after considering all things, it may be a perfect fit for them.

Countless officers have served their communities faithfully and respectfully, reaching retirement with the knowledge that they made a difference in their neighborhoods, cities, and in the lives of others as well.

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