Police officer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A police officer is a warranted employee of a police service. Among the responsibilities of a police officer are to maintain public order, prevent and detect crime and apprehend offenders, using force when necessary. Police officers can be trained in an enormous number of specialisms such as armed response, hostage negotiation, royalty or diplomatic protection, surveillance, counter-terrorism, child protection, internet-based sexual offences, major criminal investigations such as fraud, rape, murder, honour killings, people or drugs trafficking and so on.

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[edit] Work as a police officer

A Police Constable of West Yorkshire Police on patrol
A Police Constable of West Yorkshire Police on patrol

A police officer (also known as a constable in some countries) is employed in most cases by national, state/provincial or municipal governments and has the responsibility (or duty) of enforcing federal, state/provincial laws along with municipal/city ordinances. They also have the responsibility of keeping the public peace. This is usually done by uniformed pro-active patrolling within their jurisdiction looking for and investigating law breakers, and by responding to calls for service. Police officers are required to keep notes of all situations in which they take action and appear as witnesses during both criminal prosecutions and civil litigation. One of the lesser-known but most time-consuming duties of officers is completion of documentation of activity ("reporting").

It must be noted that the responsibilities of a police officer/constable are extremely broad and not in any way limited to the duties mentioned above. Police are expected to be able to respond in some fashion to any and all situations that may arise while they are on duty. Also police must act as government officials in the cases of investigation. In some communities rules and procedures governing conduct and duties of police officers requires that they act if needed even when off duty.

[edit] Function in the community

A Chicago police officer patrolling on a Segway
A Chicago police officer patrolling on a Segway

In most Western legal systems, the major role of the police is to maintain order, keeping the peace through enforcement of laws and societal norms. They also function to discourage deter and investigate crimes, with particular emphasis on crime against persons, property or the law, and the maintenance of public order, and if able to apprehend suspected perpetrator(s), to detain them, and inform the appropriate authorities. See criminal law.

Police are often used as an emergency service and may provide a public safety function at large gatherings, as well as in emergencies, disasters, and search and rescue situations. To provide a prompt response in emergencies, the police often coordinate their operations with fire and emergency medical services. In some jurisdictions, individuals serve jointly as police officers as well as firefighters or paramedics. In many countries there is a common emergency service number that allows the police, firefighters or medical services to be summoned to an emergency.

Police are also responsible for reporting minor offenses by issuing citations which typically may result in the imposition of fines, particularly for violations of traffic law. Traffic enforcement is often and effectively accomplished by police officers on motorcycles — called motor officers, these officers refer to the motorcycles they ride on duty as simply motors. Police sometimes involve themselves in the maintenance of public order, even where no legal transgressions have occurred — for example, in some Australian jurisdictions, people who are drunk and causing a public nuisance may be removed to a "drying-out center" until they recover from the effects of the alcohol. Police are also trained in Basic First Aid such as CPR.

In addition, many park rangers are nowadays commissioned as law enforcement officers and carry out a law enforcement role within national parks and other backcountry wilderness and recreational areas. Military police perform law enforcement functions within the military.

A motor officer patrolling in Arizona on a BMW "motor"
A motor officer patrolling in Arizona on a BMW "motor"

Police can serve as an instrument of oppression in jurisdictions where the political climate is hostile to plurality. Police forces have been used historically to suppress dissent and crush protests when political leaders had the authority to place such limits on freedom to assemble. Police brutality is a term generally applied to oppressive or violent actions by police officers in a jurisdiction where the citizens are supposed to have freedoms but rogue police decided to live above the law.

In socialist and anarchist theory and analysis, the police are seen as the main force responsible for defending the interests of the bourgeoisie and maintaining the status quo, primarily by protecting private property and capital from the "dispossessed" classes (the "proletariat"). Socialists and anarchists argue that although police may have in at least some cases the responsibility for maintaining the safety of citizens and even carry out such a responsibility, most crimes originate from class inequality or the psychological effects of this as well as hierarchy, and therefore that these crimes would not exist in a classless and non-hierarchical society, where goods are evenly distributed and hierarchy has been removed.

Under socialist theories of law, the law, and the state itself, are established to serve as a tool of the dominant class or classes of a society. In a Communist society, this has meant that law is intended to serve as a tool of the Communist party in promoting and protecting the revolution and overseeing the restructuring of society. In practice, this meant that police in Communist countries have had a role as secret police against political opponents and dissidents against the Party. This has presented a challenge in many post-Communist societies to establishing effective police institutions and the rule of law as the vacuum following Party dominance and the memories of the activities of predecessors such as the NKVD, KGB, Stasi and Securitate left many post-Communist states without police forces widely considered legitimate or respectable.

[edit] Qualifications

Officers of the Singapore Police Force may include conscripts, with qualification requirements slightly deviating from that of regular officers. Shown left is a full-time serviceman, accompanied at right by a Police National Serviceman (reservist) providing security coverage at the National Day Parade, 2004 together with regular officers.
Officers of the Singapore Police Force may include conscripts, with qualification requirements slightly deviating from that of regular officers. Shown left is a full-time serviceman, accompanied at right by a Police National Serviceman (reservist) providing security coverage at the National Day Parade, 2004 together with regular officers.

In most countries, candidates for the police force must have completed some formal education. Increasing numbers of people are joining the police force who possess tertiary education and in response to this many police forces have developed a "fast-track" scheme whereby those with university degrees spend 2-3 years as a police constable before receiving promotion to higher ranks, such as sergeants, inspectors etc. (Officers who work within investigative divisions or plainclothes are not necessarily a higher rank but merely do a slightly different job.) Police officers are also recruited from those with experience in the military or security services. Most law enforcement agencies now have measurable physical fitness requirements for officers. In the United States, state laws may codify state-wide qualification standards regarding age, education, criminal record, and training but in other places requirements are set by local police agencies.

Police agencies are usually semi-military in organization, so that with specified experience or training qualifications officers become eligible for promotion to a higher supervisory rank, such as sergeant. Promotion is not automatic and usually requires the candidate to pass some kind of examination, interview board or other selection procedure. Although promotion normally includes an increase in salary, it also brings with it an increase in responsibility and for most, an increase in administrative paperwork.

After completing a certain period of service, officers may also apply for specialist positions, such as detective, police dog handler, mounted police officer, motorcycle officer, water police officer, or firearms officer (in forces which are not routinely armed).

In some countries such as in Singapore, police ranks may also be beefed up through conscription, similar to national service in the military. Qualifications may thus be relaxed or enhanced depending on the target mix of conscripts. In Singapore, for example, conscripts face tougher physical requirements in areas such as eyesight, but are less stringent with minimum academic qualification requirements. Some police officers also join as volunteers, who again may do so via differing qualification requirements.

[edit] Dangers and rewards of being a police officer

Due to the unpredictable nature of law enforcement, police officers have the potential to encounter many dangerous situations in the course of their career. Dangers faced by officers include death, increased risk of infectious diseases, increased risk of physical injury, and the potential for emotional disorder due to both the high stress and inherently adversarial nature of police work. These dangers are encountered in many different situations e.g. the investigation, pursuit, and apprehension of criminals, motor vehicle stops, crimes, response to terrorism, intervention in domestic disputes, investigating traffic accidents, and directingtraffic. The constant risk, uncertainty and tension inherent in law enforcement and the exposure to vast amounts of human suffering and violence can lead susceptible individuals to anxiety, depression, and alcoholism.

Individuals are drawn to police work for many reasons. Among these often include a desire to protect the public and social order from criminals and danger; a desire to hold a position of respect and authority; a disdain for or antipathy towards criminals and rule breakers; the professional challenges of the work; the employment benefits that are provided with civil service jobs in many countries; the sense of camaraderie that often holds among police; or a family tradition of police work or civil service. An important task of the recruitment activity of police agencies in many countries is screening potential candidates to determine the fitness of their character and personality for the work, often through background investigations and consultation with a psychologist.

[edit] Line of duty deaths

Line of duty deaths are deaths which occur while an officer is conducting his or her appointed duties. Despite the increased risk of being a victim of a homicide, automobile accidents are the most common cause of officer deaths. Officers are more likely to be involved in traffic accidents because of their large amount of time spent conducting vehicle patrols, as well as their work outside their vehicles alongside or on the roadway, or in dangerous pursuits. Officers killed by suspects make up a smaller proportion of deaths. In the U.S. in 2005, 156 line of duty deaths were recorded of which 44% were from assaults on officers, 35% vehicle related (only 3% during vehicular pursuits) and the rest from other causes: heart attacks during arrests/foot pursuits, diseases contracted from suspects, accidental gun discharges, falls, and drownings.[1]

Police officers who die in the line of duty, especially those who die from the actions of suspects, are often given elaborate funerals, attended by large numbers of fellow officers. Their families may also be eligible for special pensions. Fallen officers are often remembered in public memorials such as the U.S.'s National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

Statistically, 18,092 law enforcement officers are known to have died in the line of duty in the United States. In Canada, 757 law enforcement officers met a similar fate. In the United Kingdom, about 3,600 law enforcement officers are known to have died in the line of duty. The Singapore Police Force registered just over 100 deaths in a century up to the year 2000.

[edit] Well known police officers

[edit] Notable historical police personalities

[edit] Notable police officers better known in other walks of life

For police officers in fiction, see the category Fictional police officers.

[edit] See also