public service

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What Does a Police Officer Do?

Police officers maintain order and uphold the law. They prevent and investigate crimes, enforce traffic laws, respond to emergencies and catch criminals. Patrol officers keep an area safe. They patrol their area in a car, on foot or on a horse. Officers work for a city, county, state or federal government. The size of the jurisdiction often determines the duties of the daily job. For example, an officer working for a smaller municipality may have a broader variety of duties compared to an officer working on a larger police force.

Police officers often work in shifts, including nights and weekends. The work is dynamic, but it can be dangerous. Most officers wear a uniform with a badge and carry required equipment.

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A female police officer stands by her patrol car
Police officers work in the patrol division before being assigned to a special unit. (Credit: John Roman Images/Shutterstock)
Duties + Responsibilities
  • Patrol specific areas of the community
  • Respond to calls from the public through a dispatcher, including emergency and non-emergency situations
  • Conduct traffic control and enforcement
  • Arrest suspected criminals
  • Conduct preliminary investigations and collect evidence
  • Write detailed reports
  • Testify in court when needed
  • Undergo training to use firearms safely

Employer requirements range from a high school diploma or equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. Some police officer candidates often take college-level classes in law enforcement or criminal justice. Programs are offered at community colleges and universities and include classes on laws, civil rights and emergency response. The amount of on-the-job training varies by jurisdiction.

Most candidates go through Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), more commonly known as the police academy. It usually takes between four and six months. Cadets must be 21 years old, a U.S. citizen and pass rigorous psychological, academic and physical exams. Those with felony backgrounds are not eligible. Speaking a second language is a plus.

Police officers can advance their careers through promotions. In some jurisdictions, that includes criminal investigator or detective.

  • Are in good physical condition
  • Have a calm temperament
  • Work well under pressure
  • Have good judgment
  • Have good communication skills
  • Are perceptive and quick-thinking
  • Are detail-oriented
  • Enjoy working in a changing environment

Police Officer training in your area


Criminal Justice Technology, A.A.S.

Craven Community College
New Bern (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice Studies - Law Enforcement Academy

Waukesha County Technical College
Pewaukee (0.0 Miles)

Law Enforcement Supervision Certificate of Achievement

San Diego Miramar College
San Diego (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice, A.S.

Manchester Community College (CT)
Manchester (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice Technology - Degree

Isothermal Community College
Spindale (0.0 Miles)

Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy

Zane State College
Zanesville (0.0 Miles)
Paradise Valley Community College

Administration of Justice Certificate

Paradise Valley Community College
Phoenix (0.0 Miles)

Forensic Science, A.A.S.

Wake Technical Community College
Raleigh (0.0 Miles)

Introduction to Criminal Justice Certificate

North Georgia Technical College
Clarkesville (0.0 Miles)

Fire Science/Criminal Justice/EMT Associate Degree

Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College
Orangeburg (0.0 Miles)

Legal Studies Certificate

Rio Salado College
Tempe (0.0 Miles)

A.A.S. Criminal Justice - Police Science

Metropolitan Community College (MO)
Kansas City (0.0 Miles)

Find Police Officer Jobs in Your Area


Police Officer, Lateral

City of Idaho Falls
Idaho Falls ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 2 weeks ago

Lateral Police Officer

City of Auburn
Auburn ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 month 2 weeks ago

Grader CE 423 Gayah

Penn State University
University Park ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 4 weeks ago

Police Officer Trainee

City of Fairfield, California
Fairfield ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 2 months 1 week ago

Police Officer (Part-Time PRN)

University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
Belton ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 4 months 2 weeks ago

Police Officer - Continuous

State Center Community College District
Fresno ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 2 months 1 week ago

Police Recruit (Police Officer Trainee) (20014884)

City of South San Francisco, CA
South San Francisco ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 5 months 1 week ago

Police Officer (Lateral / Academy)

City of San Pablo, CA
San Pablo ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 5 months 3 weeks ago