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5 Duties of a Police Officer that will Surprise You

5 Duties of a Police Officer that will Surprise You

 home > blog articles > 5 duties of a police officer that will surprise you

 

 Brian Humenuk | Author | COPJOT

By Brian Humenuk, MA, COPJOT

Updated on December 2, 2023

6-minute read or less

A police officer’s job is complex, but it hasn’t always been that way. As our population has grown and communities have evolved the role of a police officer has changed….. but with that change comes the need for education, endless training, and of course controversy.

The balance of being an enforcer and community partner is one of the more difficult aspects of the job. To be active or reactive. To enforce or give a break.

Throw in the fact that during an eight-hour shift, a police officer can find the need to balance those roles four or five times.

You have come here to find out what exactly the job of a police officer is. You may be just wondering, or you might feel the calling of becoming something more than what you do now.

Whatever your reason for finding out more, you have come to the right place.

There are few other jobs that television and the movies depict than that of a police officer. To many being a police officer is exciting, action packed and glamorous. 

But is it that way in real life?

The job of a police officer can look all nice and shiny, especially the way the movies depict it, but there can be a dark world behind the badge. I will get into that later in the article.

Be sure to read to the end of the article where I will give you a unique video on the realities of being a police officer from a rookies perspective.

And one last thing... COPJOT is supported by its audience. When you make a purchase through links on this site I may earn a small affiliate commission.

Let’s dive into the job of a police officer.

What is a Police Officer?

A Police Officer is a sworn and trained law enforcement professional who is entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining public order, enforcing laws, and protecting the safety and well-being of individuals within a community.

A Police Officer is a person who embarked on a calling to serve his or her community and was able to pass a multitude of testing and training at a police academy in order to become a cop or law enforcement officer.

A Cop is a person, who has weighed the risks versus benefits and decided that they wanted to live a life of service even if while serving to protect a total stranger they are seriously injured or killed.

A Law Enforcement Officer is an individual who has taken on the task of holding themselves to a high standard both on duty and off. They keep their lives free of criminal wrongdoing and sometimes have to act as a police officer or first responder off duty.

A Policeman is a person who works in a demanding profession that requires a unique set of skills, ethical fortitude, and a deep commitment to public service.

What are the 5 primary duties of a police officer?

The 5 primary duties of a police officer include, but are not limited to:

  1. Patrolling assigned areas acting as both a proactive crime fighter and a deterrent to crime.
  2. Responding to emergencies that can be anywhere from a stranded motorist or home burglar alarm to a person in cardiac arrest or an active school shooter.
  3. Investigating crimes both in progress and in the past. This will include basic interviewing, notetaking, and evidence gathering.
  4. Making arrests when necessary
  5. Writing reports, submitting charges or complaints to court and testifying on behalf of the state or commonwealth.

In addition to law enforcement, police officers actively engage with the community, fostering positive relationships through outreach programs, attending community meetings, and addressing public concerns.

A police officer is responsible for a specific jurisdiction and that area can be small, medium, large or somewhere in between. A police officer protects the life and property within their given jurisdiction or area.

What is the job description of a Police Officer?

The job description of a Police Officer of is to enforce the law, maintain public safety, and ensure order in the community. They respond to emergency calls, patrol designated areas, and conduct investigations into criminal activities.

Police officers also play an important role in preventing crime by engaging with the community, regulating traffic, and offering public assistance. They are responsible for writing reports, maintaining records, and providing testimony in court to support the legal process.

What do police officers do daily?

The daily activities and routines of a police officer are dynamic and often unpredictable, given the nature of law enforcement. While specific duties can vary based on factors such as department size, location, and individual assignments.

I've listed the following to give you insight into the day-to-day activities and routines of a police officer.

Roll Call and Briefing:

Officers start their day by attending roll call, where supervisors provide updates, share information about ongoing investigations, and discuss any emerging issues. This is also a time for officers to receive their daily assignments.

Equipment Check:

Before heading out for patrol, officers conduct a thorough check of their equipment, including firearms, communication devices, and protective gear, ensuring everything is in working order.

Patrol:

Patrol officers spend a significant portion of their day patrolling assigned areas.

This involves driving or walking through neighborhoods, business districts, and public spaces to deter criminal activities, respond to calls, and maintain a visible presence in the community.

Responding to Calls:

Officers respond to various calls for service, including reports of criminal activity, accidents, disturbances, and medical emergencies just to name a few.

Investigations:

Depending on the size of the department, officers may be involved in ongoing investigations.

This could include gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and collaborating with detectives on more complex cases.

Community Engagement:

Building positive relationships with the community is a vital aspect of a police officer's role.

This involves interacting with residents, attending community events, and participating in outreach programs to enhance trust and collaboration.

Traffic Enforcement:

A large amount of time is taken up enforcing traffic laws, responding to accidents and directing traffic around hazards.

Crime Prevention:

Proactive crime prevention activities may include conducting foot patrols in high-crime areas, participating in neighborhood watch programs, and engaging in problem-solving initiatives to address community concerns.

Public Assistance:

Officers provide assistance to the public in non-emergency situations. This may involve helping lost individuals, providing information, or offering support during crises.

Arrests and Detentions:

When necessary, officers make arrests based on probable cause and conduct detentions. This requires knowledge of legal procedures and the protection of individuals' constitutional rights.

Report Writing and Notetaking:

Officers spend time documenting their activities, incidents, and interactions by writing detailed reports. Accurate record-keeping is essential for legal and administrative purposes.

Training and Professional Development:

Continuous training is crucial for officers to stay updated on new laws, technologies, and policing strategies. This includes firearms training, defensive tactics, and workshops on cultural sensitivity.

Shift Debrief:

At the end of their shift, officers participate in a shift handover, briefing the incoming shift about ongoing investigations, outstanding issues, and any relevant information.

What are the challenges faced by police officers?

Police officers face a great number of challenges in their daily duties, reflecting the complex and demanding nature of their role.

These challenges can impact their physical and mental well-being, as well as the effectiveness of their work.

Here are some of the key challenges faced by police officers:

Risk of Physical Harm:

Police officers often find themselves in situations that pose a risk of physical harm. Confrontations with individuals who may be armed, aggressive, or involved in criminal activities present inherent dangers.

Emotional and Psychological Stress:

Dealing with traumatic incidents, violence, and emergencies can lead to emotional and psychological stress. The cumulative impact of such experiences may contribute to conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Public Scrutiny and Perception:

Police actions are subject to public scrutiny, especially in the age of social media. Controversial incidents can lead to negative public perception and erode trust between law enforcement and the community.

Balancing Use of Force:

Deciding when and how to use force is a challenging aspect of policing. Striking the right balance between ensuring officer safety and avoiding unnecessary harm to individuals requires split-second decision-making.

High-Pressure Situations:

Police officers often operate in high-pressure environments. Emergency responses, critical incidents, and situations involving potential danger demand quick thinking, decisive actions, and effective communication.

Shift Work and Fatigue:

Irregular working hours, working night shifts while getting solid sleep, and extended duty hours can lead to fatigue. Fatigued officers may experience decreased alertness, impaired decision-making, and increased susceptibility to stress-related issues.

Lack of Resources:

Some police departments face challenges related to budget constraints and resource limitations. Insufficient staffing, outdated equipment, and inadequate training can hinder the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts.

Mental Health Stigma:

There is often a stigma surrounding mental health within the law enforcement culture. Officers may be hesitant to seek help due to concerns about perceived weakness or potential professional consequences.

Political and Policy Dynamics:

Law enforcement is influenced by political and policy changes such as police reform. Shifts in political climates and evolving policies may impact the way officers carry out their duties and the level of support they receive.

Legal and Ethical Dilemmas:

Navigating complex legal situations while maintaining ethical standards can be challenging.

Police officers must uphold constitutional rights, adhere to department policies, and make decisions that withstand legal scrutiny.

Public Expectations:

Public expectations of police officers can be high and sometimes unrealistic. Officers are expected to resolve complex societal issues while facing limitations in resources and authority.

Technological Challenges:

The integration of technology in policing brings both advantages and challenges. Older police officers find it harder to adapt to newer technology.

What are the misconceptions of police officers?

While police officers play a crucial role in maintaining law and order, several misconceptions exist about their profession.

It's essential to recognize these misconceptions to foster a more accurate understanding of the challenges and responsibilities law enforcement officers face.

I have laid out the following as some common misconceptions about police officers:

All Police Officers Are the Same:

Misconception: Assuming that all police officers have identical beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors.

Reality: Police officers are individuals with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and values. Generalizations can lead to misunderstandings.

Police Officers Enjoy Using Force:

Misconception: Believing that police officers have a preference for using force in their interactions.

Reality: The majority of police officers are trained to use force judiciously and prioritize de-escalation. Instances of excessive force do not represent the entire profession.

All Police Officers Are Corrupt:

Misconception: Assuming that corruption is widespread among police officers.

Reality: Instances of corruption are the exception rather than the rule. Most officers adhere to ethical standards, and departments have mechanisms to address and prevent corruption.

Police Officers Are Only Enforcers of Laws:

Misconception: Seeing police officers solely as enforcers, without recognizing their roles in community engagement, crime prevention, and public service.

Reality: Officers engage in various activities beyond law enforcement, including building positive relationships, participating in community events, and addressing community concerns.

All Police Encounters Are Negative:

Misconception: Assuming that all interactions with police officers are negative or confrontational.

Reality: Officers engage in a wide range of interactions, including community outreach, educational programs, and assisting individuals in non-confrontational situations.

Police Officers Are Indifferent to Community Concerns:

Misconception: Thinking that police officers are indifferent to community concerns or uninterested in addressing them.

Reality: Many officers actively engage with the community, attend meetings, and work collaboratively to address issues and build trust.

Racial Bias is Inherent in All Police Officers:

Misconception: Believing that racial bias is inherent in all police officers.

Reality: While addressing issues of racial bias is crucial, not all officers harbor prejudiced attitudes. Training and policies aim to mitigate bias and ensure fair treatment.

Police Officers Only Care About Enforcement Numbers:

Misconception: Assuming that officers prioritize achieving high arrest or citation numbers over community well-being.

Reality: Quality of service and community safety typically take precedence over arbitrary enforcement quotas.

Police Officer are tough and can handle anything that comes their way:

Misconception: Thinking that police officers are universally resistant to change or reform.

Reality: Many officers recognize the need for continuous improvement and support reforms that enhance accountability and community relations.

Body Cameras Solve All Accountability Issues:

Misconception: Assuming that the presence of body cameras guarantees accountability and transparency in all situations.

Reality: While body cameras are valuable tools, their effectiveness depends on proper usage, policies, and accountability measures within law enforcement agencies.

Police Officers Are Invulnerable to Stress and Trauma:

Misconception: Believing that police officers are immune to the stress and trauma associated with their job.

Reality: Law enforcement professionals face high-stress situations that can impact their mental health. Acknowledging and addressing mental health challenges is crucial for overall well-being.

Now that you have read about several misconceptions of being a police officer the following video will show you that being a cop is stressful, beneficial, unpredictable, rewarding and dangerous.

Police Officers are at high risk of suicide and other health problems

The high risk of suicide and other health problems among police officers is a serious and multifaceted issue that warrants attention and comprehensive support.

While law enforcement officers are dedicated to safeguarding communities, the nature of their work exposes them to unique stressors and challenges that can have significant impacts on their mental and physical well-being.

Let's visit several challenges police officers face when it comes to their health.

Suicide Risk:

Studies have indicated that police officers face a higher risk of suicide compared to the general population.

The stressors of the job, exposure to trauma, long hours, and the stigma associated with seeking mental health support contribute to this elevated risk.

Mental Health Stigma:

There is a pervasive stigma surrounding mental health within the law enforcement culture.

Fear of judgment, concerns about professional repercussions, and the perception that seeking help is a sign of weakness can deter officers from seeking the mental health support they need.

Trauma Exposure:

Police officers regularly witness traumatic events, respond to emergencies, and confront life-threatening situations.

The cumulative impact of these experiences can lead to conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health challenges.

Job-Related Stress:

The nature of police work, characterized by high-pressure situations, public scrutiny, and the responsibility of making life-and-death decisions, contributes to chronic stress.

The accumulation of stressors can lead to physical health problems and exacerbate mental health issues.

Shift Work and Sleep Disorders:

Irregular and long working hours, including night shifts, can disrupt officers' circadian rhythms, leading to sleep disorders.

Sleep deprivation can contribute to a range of health problems, including increased stress and impaired cognitive functioning.

Many newer police officers have low seniority and are forced to work the night shifts including the midnight shift. This puts new police officers at risk right away in their careers.

Physical Health Concerns:

The demanding physical aspects of police work, including the risk of injury during arrests or confrontations, can contribute to chronic pain and other physical health issues.

These challenges can impact an officer's overall well-being.

Lack of Mental Health Resources:

Limited access to mental health resources and support within law enforcement agencies exacerbates the challenges officers face.

Insufficient training on stress management and coping strategies may contribute to a lack of resilience in dealing with job-related stressors.

Cumulative Impact:

The cumulative impact of these factors can create a toxic cycle where untreated mental health issues lead to increased stress, which, in turn, can contribute to the development of physical health problems and further exacerbate mental health challenges.

Police Officers and Controversy

As I talked about above in this article, the badge of a police officer is not always nice and shiny.

Being on the public payroll citizens can debate and sometimes change the way police officers do their jobs which is more brought to light because of an incident or a host of incidents that involve the role of police officers.

The following are the topics which society historically sees as police officer controversy.

Use of Force:

One of the primary sources of controversy in policing is the use of force. High-profile cases of police-involved shootings and instances of excessive force have sparked public outrage and demands for increased accountability. Striking the right balance between ensuring officer safety and protecting the public is an ongoing challenge.

Racial Bias and Discrimination:

The issue of racial bias within policing has been a longstanding concern. Communities of color, particularly Black and Hispanic communities, have disproportionately experienced incidents of racial profiling, discriminatory practices, and unwarranted use of force. Addressing systemic racism within law enforcement is a crucial aspect of ongoing reform efforts.

Lack of Accountability:

Controversies often arise when incidents of misconduct or excessive force go unchecked. Calls for greater accountability include demands for transparency in investigations, disciplinary actions for wrongdoing, and a reevaluation of qualified immunity—a legal doctrine that can shield officers from personal liability.

Militarization of Police:

The increasing militarization of police departments, characterized by the acquisition of military-grade equipment and tactics, has raised concerns about the escalation of force and the erosion of the community-oriented policing model. Critics argue that it creates an adversarial relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Community-Police Relations:

Building and maintaining positive relationships between police and communities is essential for effective policing. Controversies often arise when there is a perceived lack of trust, communication, and collaboration. Community policing initiatives aim to bridge this gap by fostering mutual understanding and cooperation.

Mental Health and Policing:

Policing faces challenges in dealing with individuals experiencing mental health crises. Controversies arise when encounters between police officers and individuals with mental health issues result in the use of force rather than a compassionate and de-escalation approach. Calls for specialized training and crisis intervention teams have gained prominence.

Reform and Evolution:

Despite the controversies, there is a growing recognition of the need for reform within policing. Law enforcement agencies, community leaders, and policymakers are actively engaged in initiatives to improve training, enhance accountability mechanisms, address systemic issues, and promote community-oriented policing. 

Enjoying what you are reading?

Follow the links below for more excellent Police Articles
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About the Author

Brian Humenuk isn't just an entrepreneur in eCommerce, he is also an informed leader whose experience provides followers and visitors with a look into current and past police issues making headlines in the United States.

Brian has earned three degrees in Criminal Justice with the last, a Masters of Science in Criminal Justice Administration.

Brian extends his training, education, and experience to the officers just now getting into the field so that they may become more informed police officers and stay clear of police misconduct and corruption. 

You can find Brian on Linkedin here.

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