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Criminal Justice Articles

Police Officer Career options

Upon completing police officer training, a variety of jobs are available. Not all options are available to an officer fresh out of the police academy. Some jobs require a certain amount of experience, further training, and education, or the use of an election to gain the law enforcement position.

The uniformed police officer is the law enforcement career familiar to most. This job is available to new graduates of the police academy. The job entails general duties, like patrolling designated areas for criminal activity, responding to emergency calls, directing traffic during accidents, providing first aid to an injured victim or suspect until emergency medical services arrive, and working with the local community to deter criminal activity. Uniformed police officers can work in specific locations such as shopping malls, schools, public transportation facilities, and facilities struggling with constant criminal activity. Job duties will vary based on the location, a school police officer will deal with drug problems, altercations, vandalism, and any other criminal activity performed on the school property. A mall officer will deal with shoplifting, altercations, vandalism, stolen vehicles, and missing children.

A career as a sheriff or sheriff's deputy focuses on the county where the sheriff resides. The position of sheriff is usually an elected position. An officer desiring a sheriff's position should focus on getting hired as a sheriff's deputy or working as an officer for a number of years before campaigning for sheriff. Another option for sheriff's deputies includes working in the court system as a bailiff. A highway patrol officer is another option for uniformed police officers. The highway patrol officer, or state trooper, works on the state level issuing tickets to motorists and enforcing highway laws such as speed limits and vehicle regulations. These officers respond to accidents and get involved in car chases when apprehending criminals.

Police officers who want to move up through the ranks can apply to become a detective. Detectives investigate crimes and collect evidence to apprehend suspects. Each police station will employ its own detectives for local crimes, but officers can also work toward gaining employment with federal agencies. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) both employ investigators and police officers. Other federal jobs include working for the postal service, homeland security, border patrol, customs, and the secret service that are responsible for protecting the president and other public officials.

An animal control officer works with local animal welfare agencies to regulate city and county ordinances regarding animals, investigates reports of abuse or neglect, and picks up abandoned or vicious animals. Animal control officers can also cite people for animal neglect, arrest people suspected of animal cruelty, and forcibly take animals that are in immediate danger. Fish and game wardens work with the parks department to regulate fishing and hunting. They patrol lakes and rivers, check fishing and hunting licenses, insure hunters aren't poaching, help enforce rules regarding public and private hunting property, and work with the court system to prosecute offenders.

Once an officer retires, there are still job options in the field of security. A retired officer who doesn't want to stop working completely can gain employment as a security guard on a car lot, residential community, or apartment complexes. Each law enforcement position comes with its own education and job experience requirements. While a local law enforcement officer only needs to graduate from the police academy, a federal officer will need at least a bachelor's degree. No matter which career field an officer chooses, the responsibilities of protecting people and property, enforcing laws and regulations, and exercising authority over suspected criminals is part of the job.

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