A police officer enforces prevailing laws, attempts to prevent crime, and generally looks out for the health and safety of a community. The exact job requirements for a police officer are actually quite diverse, depending on the region in which he or she works and the exact position in which the police officer is employed. Some are beat cops, for example, patrolling a regular route to look out for infractions of the law, while others specialize in dog handling, bomb disposal, and various other fields of law enforcement.
Many people primarily think of police officers as the people who hand out tickets and citations for legal infractions. However, this job is actually much more complex. Police officers work to prevent lawbreaking by patrolling, offering youth education, and coordinating community efforts like neighborhood watch associations. They also respond to complaints ranging from noise complaints to emergency calls for help, and they investigate crimes, collecting evidence and arresting people of interest in criminal cases. Many police officers also testify in court at some point.
There are a number of specialties within police work. Some police officers work as support staff at a station, dispatching calls and performing other important clerical work. Others remain on-call for emergent situations like bomb threats, hostage crises, and drug busts. Police officers use cars, bicycles, horses, boats, and motorcycles in the course of their work, depending on where they are employed and what they do. Some are certified as canine handlers, using their dogs to detect dangerous substances.
In many communities, active police officers also assist with public education and outreach. They visit schools to talk with students, and they network with community organizations with law enforcement goals. Many communities have Police Activities Leagues and other groups which are aimed at connecting members of law enforcement and regular citizens, to foster positive relationships between the police and the people they work with.
The work of a police officer can be very dangerous. Cops in the field must contend with constantly changing situations, and routine calls which can go bad quickly. They also pursue dangerous and sometimes desperate criminals who make poor decisions out of panic. A police officer must be able to rapidly assess a situation and make sound choices which will benefit the community, using the tools at his or her disposal, which can range from riot gear to ticket books.