What are the Different Police Officer Duties?

Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Police officers are responsible for keeping communities safe, but there is a lot more to being a police officer than just patrolling the neighborhood or solving crimes. Police officer duties also include a lot of paperwork and community projects. The normal day of a cop is usually scheduled with all types of activities.

Many police officers spend much of their time patrolling an area.
Many police officers spend much of their time patrolling an area.

Much of a police officers day is spent doing patrol. Cops are given a specific route or area to patrol for several hours at a time. While on patrol, cops keep an eye out for potential crimes, traffic violators, and anything else that may require their attention. Police officer duties during patrol also include getting to know the residents along their patrol route. It is important to know which individuals along the route tend to get into trouble as well as those that don't, and to make sure that people know an officer is watching for any problems that might come up.

Police officers might secure a crime scene.
Police officers might secure a crime scene.

Police officer duties also involve dealing with crime. Officers are usually the first on a crime scene, and must secure the scene to preserve evidence and take pictures to provide a visual record of how the scene was set up. They need to know how to bag and label evidence, develop a scenario of what and when the crime happened, and then come up with a list of suspects. Officers need to be able to narrow down this list until they find the person, or persons, responsible. Solving crimes also requires police officers to interview suspects, witnesses, and anyone else who may have information about the crime.

Police officers are responsible for gathering information from suspects.
Police officers are responsible for gathering information from suspects.

The duty that police officers spend most of their time on is paperwork. From the time they clock in until the time they clock out at the end of their shift, about half of a police officer's day is spent filling out forms, writing reports, and updating their logs. This is one of the police officer duties that many people may not be as aware of, but it is one of the most important duties that a police officer has. Keeping a detailed record helps to keep police departments running smoothly.

A police officer is responsible for arresting people who break the law.
A police officer is responsible for arresting people who break the law.

Community work is another part of being a police officer. Police officers are involved in community education, working with students, community watch programs, and with other groups, giving presentations, answering questions, and providing advice and council. Officers also listen to, record, and try to resolve complaints against the police department and other officers. Other police officer duties include testifying in court, presenting evidence, reports taken, and explaining any technical aspects of the crime to jurors and the judge.

One role of a police officer is to testify in court.
One role of a police officer is to testify in court.

There are many different aspects to the career of a police officer. Many of these police officer duties are not done every day. A police officer may spend several days doing patrol, and then spend a day doing community outreach or testifying in court. Police officers may also work in the local jail or doing desk work, such as answering phones and talking to community members who drop in with a problem. Other days may be spent attending training programs. The varied duties of a police officer mean that no two days are ever exactly the same.

Police officers might have to break up a fight.
Police officers might have to break up a fight.
Police officers may be called in to make sure riots don't get out of control.
Police officers may be called in to make sure riots don't get out of control.
Police officers must bag and label evidence.
Police officers must bag and label evidence.
Police officers will often work the scene of a vehicle accident.
Police officers will often work the scene of a vehicle accident.
Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Margo has a varied academic background, which has involved everything from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education. These wide-ranging interests make her an ideal wiseGEEK writer, as she always enjoys becoming an expert on new and unfamiliar topics.

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Discussion Comments

Drentel

@Laotionne - The physical requirements for a police officer on the job vary from department to department. No department wants to lose a good officer because he can't run a mile in some allotted and arbitrary time. How often does the average police officer have to run a mile as one of his police officer duties anyway?

However, there are certain jobs within a police department that require the officer to be in better condition than other positions. An officer who works as a specialist on a S.W.A.T. team or some other specialized force will have higher physical standards placed on him than will a police officer who primarily patrols the streets in a cruiser.

To me, this seems appropriate since patrol officer duties are not as physically challenging as a specialist's duties for the most part.

Animandel

@Laotionne - Police officers have to pass a rather strenuous physical fitness test when they go through the training at the police academy. I have known of several young men and women who hired physical trainers to help them prepare for the physical fitness portion of the police training test.

Once a person becomes a police officer, I am guessing that the physical requirements drop off some. The reason I say this is because I have seen more than a few police officers who were overweight, and they didn't look as if they could pass any type of strenuous or not so strenuous physical fitness test.

I mean no disrespect to police officers, but I'm sure I am not the only one who has noticed that some police officers are not in the best physical condition -- not unlike other segments of the workforce. However, if the officers are on the job then I assume they are able to fulfill their police officer duties.

Laotionne

Does anyone know what the training for a police officer is like? Are the physical tests difficult to pass, and how difficult is it to maintain the physical requirements once you have become an officer?

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