Peace Officer vs Police Officer Explained

Peace Officer vs Police Officer Explained

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Brian Humenuk | Author | COPJOT Police Notebooks and Pens
Updated on August 1, 2023
4 minute read

Hearing or seeing the term Peace Officer in 2023 instead of Police Officer can be confusing because society is very used to hearing the term Police.

Peace Officer is an old term from the west where there were Peacemakers in old western towns and counties. This evolved into Deputy Sheriff and Constables along with Marshals. Police Officer or Law Enforcement Officer is a modern term that is intertwined with all of the preceding terms as their jobs were much of the same. 

Peacemakers, Constables, Deputy Sheriffs and Marshals were all sworn or commissioned personnel charged with the duty of providing services to their jurisdiction such as restoring peace amongst unruly people. 

A Marshal evolved into a Peace Officer under federal law and a Deputy Sheriff is most associated with counties and detention officers which separates them from city police officers.

State Troopers have statewide jurisdiction and are most often associated with the enforcement of state law, the protection of state property and issuing citations for traffic violations on state roads and highways.

The following gives you some insight into what is a Peace Officer. 

Is a Peace Officer the same as a Police Officer?

A Police Officer is essentially a Peace Officer and vise versa and both are sworn members of a police force. In some parts of the United States the term Peace Officer is more widely used. 

Police Officers or Peace Officers are charged with keeping the peace in many situations and this is the origin of the term. For instance, Police Officers or Law Enforcement Officers respond to calls of disturbances or unruly gatherings and it is their job to restore the peace in the many ways in which they are trained. This can be by a multitude of of ways and outcomes including the arrest of an individual or individuals because Peace Officers have sworn power to arrest. 

As you have read so far you can understand that certain titles can mean a person employed by different agencies that will carry specific duties but all will normally include keeping the peace.

What are the Common Qualities that would Make a Good Peace Officer?

Character - Being of good sound moral character is a quality of a Peace Officer. It centers on the way a person thinks, feels, acts, and behaves both on and off duty.

Integrity - The quality of being honest, trustworthy and having strong moral principles.

Courage - Being able to put the needs of others before ones self. 

Knowledge - The ability to learn and retain information on federal, state and local laws as well as Constitutional law such as the 4th and 5th amendments.

Frequently Asked Questions about Peace Officers

Do Peace Officers have the Right of Arrest?

Yes, Peace Officers will have the right of arrest unless otherwise sworn.

An example of this may be a Peace Officer who is sworn in as an auxiliary officer, security officer, cadet or probationary officer and their job description is that of a traffic post or other non law enforcement duties. 

Public Safety Officers are most often associated with campus policing  and may or may not have to power of arrest or even be able to enforce the law. Their main job is to provide public safety and ensure safety code is met.

Do Peace Officers Carry a Gun?

Not all Peace Officers and Police Officers carry firearms. Some Peace Officers and Police Officers work for non governmental agencies or private companies where they may be sworn in to carry full arrest powers but may not carry firearms.

An example of this would be college, university and hospital police officers whom work for private institutions.

Do Peace Officers get paid?

Not all Peace Officers get paid for their service. Some Peace Officers, Reserve Deputies, and Police Officers serve as an auxiliary or to give back to their community. 

What is the Peace Officer Standards and Training?

You may hear the phrase Peace Officer Standards and Training or POST which means that it is a branch of state government, sometimes called a board, commission or unit, that establishes and oversees the minimum hiring and training standards for police officers.

POST also acts as a certification and decertification unit for statewide police officers as well as establishes agency accreditation standards.

Most states now have Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST)

Do Peace Officers go to the Police Academy?

Now more than ever it is very important that Peace Officers and Police Officers are hired and trained under the Peace Officer Standards and Training POST umbrella of minimum hiring and training standards.

The ability to learn and understand criminal procedure including probable cause, criminal law, how to investigate crimes and make arrests

An academy trained peace officer will need to know about traffic investigations and how to submit charges to the court or district attorney.

Peace Officers will most likely also have to attend and complete yearly in-service training in order to be recertified. 

Do Peace Officers Carry Handcuffs?

If a Peace Officer is sworn with powers of arrest chances are they will be carrying handcuffs.

What kind of Equipment do Peace Officers Carry?

The equipment that a Peace Officer carries on them will be determined by his or her agencies policies and procedures. This can include handcuffs, OC, baton or ASP, night stick, portable radio, electronic weapon, tourniquet, firearm, and possibly more or less.

More Information

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