What Does a Patrolman Do?

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  • Written By: Marco Sumayao
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2019
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The chief responsibility of a patrolman is to monitor his assigned area for any signs of suspicious or unlawful activity. In addition, it is the patrolman's duty to respond to any civilian calls for help and to apprehend any criminal suspect found within his area of responsibility. In the course of the patrol, the officer should keep a record of any suspected criminal activity, as well as any details involved during the pursuit of a criminal. Patrolmen are expected to assist citizens in any capacity, including providing roadside assistance when needed. Patrol officers also handle the responsibility of instructing the youth and citizenry in general on matters of the law.

A patrolman is usually assigned to monitor activity in a certain area of his precinct's jurisdiction. The patrol can be done on foot, or with the assistance of a motor vehicle; in some areas, patrolmen proceed with their duties mounted on a horse. If the patrolman is given a vehicle or mount to assist him on his patrol, he is also responsible for its maintenance.

Patrol officers are given equipment to help them apprehend criminal activity detected in their areas. Depending on their location's laws, patrolmen can be given firearms for this purpose. Any potentially deadly weapon, however, should only be used as a last resort in stopping criminals, and a patrolman is responsible for maintaining this philosophy, as well as ensuring any other officers adhere to it.


In the event that suspicious or criminal activity is detected on patrol, patrol officers should gauge the situation to determine whether or not direct confrontation is a suitable option. If an officer determines that confrontation is likely to result in further endangering citizen safety, it is the patrolman's duty to call authorities and request assistance on the matter. If the situation can be approached safely and without need for backup, the officer should investigate the subject's activity and his intentions. In either situation, the patrolman should keep an accurate record of any events that transpire, making sure to include the date, time, and location of the incident.

Patrolmen are often asked to assist citizens who require additional help in their endeavors. A responsible patrolman sees fit to help within his capacity, but knows his priorities well enough to decline helping if it hinders his ability to perform his primary responsibilities. In general, a patrol officer is tasked to maintain a law-abiding environment of service to the citizenry; in this regard, he is also responsible for educating citizens about the law when appropriate.


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