Ultimate Guide on what is a Police Officer or Peace Officer?

Ultimate Guide on what is a Police Officer or Peace Officer?

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Brian Humenuk | Author | COPJOT

By Brian Humenuk, COPJOT  

Updated on September 4, 2023

6 minute read

When we think of Police Officers or peace officers, we often conjure up images of brave men and women who protect and serve our communities. But what exactly is a Police Officer or a Peace Officer, and how did this unique profession evolve over time?

In this article, Ultimate Guide on What is a Police Officer or Peace Officer, we'll delve into the definition of a peace officer, what it is that they do and trace the fascinating history of this essential role in maintaining law and order.

What is the Definition of a Police Officer

A Police Officer or Peace Officer is an individual authorized by a governmental entity to enforce the law, maintain order, and protect the rights and safety of citizens.

A Police Officer or Law Enforcement Officer is given authority through their oath of office to charge person(s) with violations of law. They uphold the Constitution of the United States as well as the State Constitution and local laws or bylaws.

A Police Officer is a trained professional who can respond quickly and act judiciously where peace needs to be restored, property needs to be protected and lives need to be saved.

A Police Officer is an investigator of both minor and complex crimes. A Police Officer writes notes or gathers facts and documents events and incidents by completing police reports.

The Ancient Roots of Peace Officers

The concept of peace officers has ancient origins, dating back to early civilizations. In ancient Egypt, officials known as "medjay" were responsible for maintaining order and enforcing the Pharaoh's decrees.

In ancient Rome, individuals called "lictors" accompanied magistrates to uphold law and order.

Medieval England saw the emergence of constables and sheriffs, who were responsible for local law enforcement. The constable's role was to keep the peace within a township, while sheriffs oversaw law enforcement in a county. These early peace officers laid the foundation for modern policing.

What do Police Officers do?

A Police Officer is a person who patrols their jurisdiction or sector or beat and provides deterrence to crime and disorder as well as answers calls for service that range from minor problems to very complex situations.

Officers have the duty to investigate the allegations that criminal statutes were, are or about to be violated and act necessary to bring about peace. Many local, county and state Police Officers also are charged with the responsibility to enforce traffic laws on roads and highways as well as direct traffic.

A Police Officer has the sworn authority to charge individuals with violations of state and local laws, they write police reports and they testify in court. Law Enforcement Officers investigate and process evidence at crime scenes and motor vehicle accidents and they are are trained to provide first aid and CPR.

Police work can be complicated and complex as officers are required to respond to emergency calls at all hours of the day and night and with little to no information about what they are going to. They investigate traffic accidents of all different sizes and certainly no easy task is arresting criminals that can be extremely violent at times.

Where do Law Enforcement Officers work?

Sworn officers are part of the criminal justice system and work for local, county and state government agencies or police forces. Many of these agencies are police departments or county sheriff departments.

Police Officers work for the police force in many different capacities. They can work for local municipalities, state agencies, Federal buildings, train companies, hospitals and more. Not matter where the Police Officer is employed their job responsibilities are the protection of life and property and the enforcement of laws.

The Birth of Modern Policing

The modern concept of policing took shape in the 19th century, primarily in the United Kingdom and the United States. Sir Robert Peel, a British statesman, is often credited with establishing the principles of modern policing.

In 1829, Peel's Metropolitan Police Act established the first organized and professional police force in London, earning officers the nickname "Bobbies" or "Peelers."

In the United States, the evolution of peace officers was influenced by various historical events. The first organized police force in America was the Boston Police Department, established in 1838.

As the nation expanded westward, law enforcement officers played a crucial role in maintaining order on the frontier, often referred to as "marshals" or "sheriffs."

Is a Peace Officer the same as a Police Officer?

Yes, Police Officers are sometimes called Peace Officers in different parts of the United States and even the world. Whether they are called a Police Officer or Peace Officer also depends on what type of police force they work for.For instance (POST) may in some states stand for Peace Officer Standards and training and in other states it stands for Police Officer standards and training.

Are Police Officers certified?

COPS in all 50 states are POST certified meaning that they have to pass certification and training requirements set out by the state and they have to re-certify every so often. A Police Officer by law need to attend and successfully complete the police academy after being hired by their appointing agency. Police Officers also need to complete in-service training annually in order to keep their certification.

How long does it take to become a COP?

To can take anywhere from 4 months to 11 months to become fully sworn and working independently. This depends on the state in which you become employed in and their (POST) Police Officer Standards and Training requirement. After graduating from the criminal justice training academy most police officers will work up to six months alongside a senior officer while assigned to a field training program.

What is the Police Academy like?

The Police Academy is a place where recruits receive instruction on criminal law, constitutional law, traffic laws, defensive tactics and self defense, police ethics, first aid and CPR, how to investigate a crime scene and collect evidence, and much more. Most Police Academies are run in a way to instill positive discipline, build team work and instill character and integrity. Instruction will also get into vehicle emergency response, how to investigate accident scenes and special weapons. Attention to detail is taught through drill instruction and inspections.

Some police academies, especially state police or highway patrol academies, are a live in facility where your commitment to learning will need to be at a high level Monday through Friday.

What does it take to be a good Police Officer?

Many would say that the best law enforcement officers have very strong communication skills which allow them to bring calm to emergency situations as well as get the most information when they interview witnesses and suspects. A good law enforcement officer will be able to use time management effectively where they are able to quickly and fluently type detailed reports.

While assigned to patrol a good officer will be able to conduct criminal investigations or solve missing persons cases and then respond to a car accident to provide traffic control during rush hour. Becoming a good officer takes years of training, experience and continued education on subject matters.

How much money do Police Officers make?

Interested in finding out how much money police officers make? Visit our full blog article on How much money do Police Officers make to see a rundown of state to state police officer average salaries.

What is the meaning of Sergeant in Policing?

A Sergeant in Law enforcement agencies is a supervisory position who is at the rank above Police Officer or Corporal. A Sergeant is a first line supervisor who if part of the command staff holds a lower ranking position.

A Sergeant in some law enforcement agencies supervises patrol officers working in sectors and in larger agencies they can supervise Police Officers in specialty or division such as Crime Prevention or Detectives.

What is the abbreviation for Sergeant?

The correct abbreviation for Sergeant is SGT.

How to become a Police Officer?

For information on how to become a Police Officer be sure to read our blog article "How to become a Police Officer"

More Information

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