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Criminal Justice Articles

What does a Police Officer do?

A police officer's job varies tremendously depending on the type of police officer he or she is. Police officers all have an occupational specialty that dictates how they spend their days. Duties are also dictated based on the branch of the government the officer works for. For instance, some are local law enforcement officers who work for the city or county where they live. Others work for the state, and others work for federal agencies.

The most common type of police officer is a uniformed police officer. These officers may be responsible for enforcing the laws. They will respond to calls asking for police help, such as domestic disturbance or robbery calls. These are also the officers who direct traffic when there is an accident or a traffic light that is not functioning properly. Uniformed police officers are trained in first aid so that they can care for victims of accidents or crimes when they first arrive on the scene. Uniformed police officers can make arrests, but only within the jurisdiction of their agency.

Depending on the size of the city or county that an officer works in, the agency may assign specific duties. For instance, in agencies with large jurisdictions, some officers are assigned to work in the public schools, while others are assigned to work the streets in certain geographic areas of the agency's jurisdiction. Some are given the task of working as investigators when there are crimes or accidents. Smaller agencies are not able to divide up the tasks, and each officer performs several duties.

Not all officers interact directly with the public on a daily basis. For instance, some police officers will be trained on fingerprint and handwriting identification. They work with officers on the street to solve crimes, but rarely venture out into the field. Others, known as correctional officers, will be assigned duties within a jail. Some even work specifically in the courts.

State police officers are the ones who are responsible for enforcing motor vehicle laws. For this reason, they are often called highway patrol officers. State officers can also arrest criminals anywhere in the state. Sometimes they are asked to help the local officers in the jurisdiction where they are working. Like uniformed officers, they know how to give basic first aid, since they are often the first officers on the scene of a crime or car accident.

Some police officers do not wear an official uniform. They are called detectives and work in plainclothes so that they can gather evidence relating to crimes. They can also participate in raids, and sometimes they arrest criminals. Detectives are assigned to a specific case until it is finished or dropped. While they work a case, they will examine the evidence, do interviews with witnesses and suspects, and use the information they collect to determine who is guilty and who is innocent.

A police officer's job, no matter what specialty it involves, is a dangerous one. Dealing with criminals on a daily basis causes stress and requires the officer to always be alert and ready for the unexpected. Police officers often see terrible situations that take a toll on their emotional well being. This job also entails a lot of paperwork. Every arrest made or ticket written is followed by paperwork and forms. While it is a stressful and sometimes tedious job, it is a much needed one that fulfills an important role in modern society.

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