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


Emergency Management Program

Pitt Community College
Winterville (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice Technology Certificate

Stanly Community College
Albemarle (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice Certificate

Allegany College of Maryland
Cumberland (0.0 Miles)

Corrections Certificate

Scottsdale Community College
Scottsdale (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice Fundamentals Certificate

Southern Crescent Technical College
Griffin (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement CP

St. Louis Community College
Bridgeton (0.0 Miles)

Police Academy

Eastern Gateway Community College
Steubenville (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice Technology - Degree

Isothermal Community College
Spindale (0.0 Miles)

Law Enforcement Training

Craven Community College
New Bern (0.0 Miles)

AOJ/Basic Public Safety Dispatch Course State Approved Certificate

Moreno Valley College
Moreno Valley (0.0 Miles)
Palm Beach State College logo

Auxiliary Law Enforcement Officer Certificate

Palm Beach State College
Lake Worth (0.0 Miles)

Digital Investigation Certificate

Community College of Philadelphia
Philadelphia (0.0 Miles)

Find Police Officer Jobs in Your Area


Police Officer Recruit

City of Modesto, CA
Modesto ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 6 months 3 weeks ago

Police Officer-Lateral

City of Tolleson
Tolleson ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 7 months 2 weeks ago

Police Officer Lateral/pre-service

City of Riverside
Riverside ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 8 months 2 weeks ago

Police Officer - Lateral

City of Spokane
Spokane ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 9 months 1 week ago

Police volunteers & interns (non-paid)

City of Miramar, FL
Miramar ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 11 months ago

Police Officer

City of Florissant
Florissant ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 year ago

Police Officer Trainee

City of Concord
Concord ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 year 2 months ago

Reserve Police Officer Level I (19878229)

City of Roseville, CA
Roseville ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 year 8 months ago