Police Officer DetectivePolice officers and detectives protect people and their property. The duties of law enforcement officers, many of whom are state or federal special agents, depend on the organization they work for. Law enforcement officers are expected to perform their responsibilities even if they are off duty in most jurisdictions.
Police and detectives arrest individuals caught breaking the law and issue citations or give warnings. Police officers and detectives spend a lot of their time preparing reports about police activities. Police officers travel throughout their jurisdictions to investigate suspicious activity. Detectives, also known as agents or special agents, collect evidence and document facts discovered at crime scenes.
Law enforcement officers' duties depend on their specialty and whether they work for a state or federal agency. The duties of federal officers depend on the agency they work for. All law enforcement officers must write reports, keep meticulous records, and testify in court.
Uniformed police officers patrol their jurisdictions and respond to calls. They spend the majority of their time responding to calls and doing paperwork. They direct traffic at the scene of an accident, investigate robberies, or provide first aid at accident scenes. Police officers working for larger police departments usually have specialized duties. Many police departments in big cities participate in community policing, a program where officers work with citizens to observe suspicious behavior and fight crime.
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Certain police agencies have specific geographic jurisdiction. Examples include university police departments and police officers working for school districts. Law enforcement officers working for special agencies are considered uniformed officers while some specialize as investigators.
Some police officers specialize in such fields as fingerprint identification, firearms training, and chemical analysis. Some police officers work in special units, such as special weapons and tactics (SWAT), drug sniffing dogs, harbor patrol, horseback, or bicycle units. Some local and special law enforcement officers work in jails and courts.
Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs provide law enforcement for counties. Sheriffs are usually elected and have similar duties as a local police chief. Sheriffs' departments are often small, usually employing 50 or fewer officers. The duties of deputy sheriffs are similar to those of police officers. Deputies who provide courtroom security are often referred to as bailiffs.
State police officers, also known as state troopers or highway patrol officers, provide law enforcement throughout the state they have jurisdiction in, as well as patrol state highways. State troopers issue traffic tickets to motorists. At accident scenes, state troopers direct traffic, provide first aid, and radio other emergency service providers. They also prepare accident reports intended to determine the cause. State troopers frequently assist municipal police officers, especially officers in small towns or rural areas.
State law enforcement agencies are located in every state except Hawaii. The majority of state troopers are uniformed officers who regularly patrol and respond to calls for assistance. Some troopers conduct investigations, have court-related responsibilities, or have administrative duties.
Detectives wear regular clothes, and conduct investigations as well as accumulate evidence for criminal cases. Some detectives are assigned to interagency task forces designed to fight specific types of crime. They interview witnesses or individuals who can provide valuable information during a criminal investigation, examine evidence, review a suspects' activities, and arrest suspected criminals. Detectives, and state and federal agents, and inspectors usually specialize in a certain types of crime such as fraud or homicide. These law enforcement officers are assigned cases on a rotating basis and do not stop until an arrest or conviction is made or the case is closed.
Fish and game wardens enforce boating, fishing, and hunting regulations and laws. They patrol the wilderness for hunting and fishing violations, conduct and coordinate search and rescue missions, investigate accidents and complaints, and assist prosecutors conducting investigations.
The federal government has many law enforcement agencies. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents are the primary investigators who conduct federal investigations. They may investigate any violation, of the more than 200 federal law categories. FBI agents conduct surveillance, participate in undercover work, examine evidence, monitor court-approved wiretaps, and investigate white-collar crime. The FBI investigates organized crime, public corruption, financial and banking fraud, kidnapping, cyber crime, drug smuggling, terrorism, and espionage.
As mentioned, there are numerous federal law enforcement agencies. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents enforce laws pertaining to drug tracking. U.S. marshals and deputy marshals provide security at federal courts as well as conduct other law enforcement duties. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agents enforce laws pertaining to firearms, explosives, alcohol, and tobacco. The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security special agents have anti-terrorism and law enforcement responsibilities.
The Department of Homeland Security hires numerous law enforcement officials and has many law enforcement subsidiaries including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service, and Customs and Border Protection. U.S. Border Patrol agents enforce U.S. immigration laws, having responsibility for more than 8,000 miles of land and water borders. Immigration inspectors interview and inspect individuals entering the country and its territories. Customs inspectors inspect cargo and baggage entering or leaving the country, inspecting individuals and vehicles. Federal Air Marshals provide security in U.S. airlines. U.S. Secret Service special agents and U.S. Secret Service uniformed officers provide security for the President of the United States, the Vice President, their immediate families, and other government officials. Moreover, Secret Service special agents investigate counterfeiting, credit card fraud, and government checks or bonds forgery.
The federal government employs law enforcement officers who carry firearms and have arrest powers in the Postal Service, National Park Service, Forest Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Law Enforcement.
Work ConditionsPolice and detectives have dangerous jobs and work under stressful conditions. They not only confront dangerous criminals, law enforcement officers are constantly placed in life threatening situations. Many law enforcement officers provide assistance at the scenes of crimes or accidents where people have been killed or severely injured. The private lives of law enforcement officers can be negatively affected by their work.
Federal law enforcement officers such as DEA and Secret Service agents often relocate and are required to frequently travel on short notice. Some law enforcement officers, for example, those working for the U.S. Border Patrol, spend their days working outside, sometimes in inclement weather.
Detectives, uniformed officers, federal agents, and inspectors usually work 40 hour weeks, often working overtime. Law enforcement officers must work shifts since law enforcement must be provided 24 hours. Junior officers usually work nights, weekends, and holidays. Law enforcement officials sometimes work long hours while conducting investigations and must work whenever called. Most officers, even if they are off duty, are expected to carry a firearm and provide assistance at all times.
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