The sworn officers of law enforcement are people who take an oath of supporting the United States’ constitution, the state they are working and all the laws under the jurisdiction of the agency they serve. These are the police officers, whom we see in our daily lives, carrying firearms and making arrests as part of their job. They are responsible for people’s security in a given area and in most of the agencies, the officers are expected to exercise authority whether on duty or not. Most of their jobs involve pursuing and arresting individuals who break the law. They are also supposed to write numerous reports to document their encounters in an attempt to apprehend law breakers. Besides, they are supposed to patrol within their jurisdictions and probe any suspicious activities that they encounter.
The duties of a police officer could be dangerous and stressful. The profession has the highest on duty injuries and death rates, making officers to have the need to be on constant alert as they are considered enemies by criminals. They are, in most cases, witnesses of horrible and terrifying incidences, which when coupled with the level of commitment the job demands, could make an individual’s life and family ruined if not properly assisted. This job can also get physical in very frequent instances due to dealing with crooks and law breakers in the society who would obviously try to be an obstacle to their job as well as resist arrests. However, the job of a police officer is very rewarding and it gives an individual numerous opportunities to advance and develop themselves. Financially, police officers receive very competitive salary packages as well as nice retirement benefits. They are also involved in satisfying activities that inspire most of them to work restlessly. These activities include: lifesaving, protecting the communities and keeping people safe. Their job also requires them to stay physically fit and conditioned, making police officers among the healthiest people in the society. This paper provides guidance and relevant information to individuals who wish to become police officers.
The activities of the police differ, depending on their professional specialties. For instance, the uniformed police officers attend to general law enforcement duties like patrolling the area they work in, responding to calls from citizens, directing traffic, especially at accident scenes, burglary investigation and also giving first aids to victims they encounter during their duties. The agencies are organized geographically into districts. Officers are usually assigned partners to work within their area. They work in shifts, during which they are supposed to look for suspicious issues to investigate. Some of the uniformed officers also serve in special jurisdiction agencies like public colleges and university police forces, transportation systems police agencies among others. There are also the sheriffs who work on the county level. Their duties are similar to the other agencies but they are usually elected to their posts. State police officers, who are commonly referred to as the troopers, patrol the highways to apprehend any kind of law breakers, and especially those who break motor vehicle laws as well as the traffic laws and regulations. Officers after working for a given duration of time usually two years in the regular police duties, could be assigned specialized duties in their line of specialization. Such specialized assignments include chemical and microscopic analysis, blood pattern analysis, fingerprint identification under units referred to as the forensic services, while other work in special units like the Canine corps, harbor patrol, or the famous Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT).
The plainclothes investigators normally referred to as the detectives, specialize with gathering evidence and facts about criminal activities. They could be assigned to interagency task forces to deal with a specific crime depending on its weight. They are supposed to interview witnesses and suspects, observe and record any suspicious activities, analyses records and evidence as well as help in raiding and apprehending suspects. Detectives, inspectors and state and federal agents usually deal with a particular type of violation like homicide, fraud and the like. They work on their cases to the point, where the file is closed due to a conviction or the case being dropped due to lack of evidence.
The federal government also has its law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which investigates more than two hundred categories of violations of the federal law as well as the sensitive cases, especially those that entail national security. The FBI agents conduct surveillance, analyze with court authorization of wiretaps and business records, white collar crimes, assignments into sensitive undercover jobs among others. Other federal agencies specialize with particular sets of laws. For example, there is the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the famous DEA agents. There are also the Marshals and their deputies that are responsible for protecting the courts. Other agencies include: the bureau of diplomatic security agents, the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents, the department of homeland security, U.S. border patrol agents, immigration inspectors, customs inspectors, Federal air marshals and the well-known U.S. Secret Service special agent and U.S. Secret Service uniformed officers responsible for protecting the President, Vice President as well as their immediate families and other renown government officials. These are just but a few of the agencies since the list cannot be fully described.
As mentioned earlier, the job of a police officer is very rewarding financially and otherwise being one of the major reasons why most people wish to serve as police officers. For instance, according to the labor market information, provided by Joinjso (2011), police officers receive an annual pay ranging from $65,436 to $93,637 varying with different levels of qualification and experience. They also benefit from other numerous cash and non-cash benefits like medical, dental and life insurance covers, vacations and leaves, long-term disability pay, bilingual allowances, allowances for purchasing uniform and other equipment and numerous incentives for advancing ones education (Haberfeld 17).
For people who wish to become police officers, it is important to acknowledge and participate in community interaction events as well as community service to make themselves prepared candidates for the job. How you have contributed to welfare of the community will always come up in interviews and the right thing to do, while still young, is to participate in community issues, participate in boy scouts or girl scouts, attend community related city council meeting and being familiar with your area, including all major and minor streets. Candidates with higher education also get an advantage over the others and also in terms of salary and promotions once in the job. A bachelor’s degree in any field and preferably in criminal justice or public relations makes you a good candidate. Students are encouraged to take at least one criminal justice course irrespective of their lines of specialization (Baker 57). Bilingual candidates are always favored, making it very important to take at least one foreign language class. One should also equip himself with as much knowledge about the police as possible.
Experience is one of the employers’ favorite areas of elimination. An aspirant can take a job as some form of security, part time community service, or even serve in the military. Where possible, it is also important to familiarize yourself with firearms and shooting skills. This can be made possible by having a police officer as you mentor and role model. Physical fitness cannot be ignored by aspiring candidates. A serious aspirant would do everything to get into shape. A police officer’s work involves a lot of physical activities like chasing after suspects, wrestling them and racing to save lives, which requires a physically fit individual. Beginning to work out and get into shape as early as possible is always encouraged. This makes you complete the physical agility tests easily and ahead of everybody else. Working out could involve running for a few miles at least twice a week, working out the main muscles and trying to improve every time (Frerkes 11).
It is important to acquire basic skills in some areas that could really help in the day to day performance of one’s job. Some of these skills include basic fighting and disarmament techniques, communication skills and public speaking, first aid and CPR as well as a good driver with clean records. Computer skills as well as typing speed can also come handy in report writing, which forms a major part of the police work. As most people claim that whom you know matters more than what you know, it would be unwise to rule out the truth in it. Though it is not that important to have connections, knowing a few strategically positioned people can ease your way to the force. It does not have to be through nepotism or any unlawful favors but they can mentor you and even provide you with a lot of information about the job, recruitment advertisements and the like. This coupled with your passion to work as a police officer and integrity will not only ensure that you get the job but also become the best police officer that you could.