What does a Police Officer do?
Police officers are responsible for protecting lives and property by enforcing laws, responding to calls, issuing citations, and making arrests within a designated area. Police officers aim to preserve law and order. Police officers oftentimes advance into roles like police supervisor or detective.
Police officers must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Usually, they must also have completed a minimum of 60 college semester hours in criminal justice or a related field. Police officers need to complete a training academy, pass a written and physical certification exam, pass a criminal background check, have a valid driver's license, and be at least 21 years of age. While the requirements to become a police officer might seem extensive, they are in place to ensure only those who are ready are protecting lives. The best police officers are empathetic, very physically fit, and exercise sound judgment.
- Enforce all relevant codes, ordinances, laws, and regulations
- Respond to calls for police service, both emergency and nonemergency
- Patrol assigned locations on foot and by vehicle in order to prevent and discover crime
- Enforce traffic regulations, recognize violations, and issue citations
- Secure and investigate crime scenes, and collect and preserve evidence
- Makes arrests in accordance with proper apprehension techniques
- Complete appropriate reports, forms, logs, and citations
- Testify in court when subpoenaed
- Provide emergency aid as needed
- High school diploma or general education degree (GED) required; minimum 60 college semester hours in criminal justice or related field preferred
- Must be at least 21 years of age
- Successful completion of police officer certification exam in state of practice
- Successful completion of police officer training academy in state of practice
- Current CPR certification
- Valid driver's license in state of practice
- Ability to pass a criminal background check
- Ability to pass a physical agility test
- Working knowledge of local, state, and federal laws
- Working knowledge of basic law enforcement terminology, concepts, procedures, and techniques
- Excellent judgment and physical stamina
Police Officer Salaries
Average Base Pay
Police Officer Career Path
Learn how to become a Police Officer, what skills and education you need to succeed, and what level of pay to expect at each step on your career path.
Average Years of Experience
Police Officer Insights
“Current political and social issues are making life difficult for your rank and file officers.”
“High turnover because of the pay and little to no movement opportunities within the company.”
“Poor Pay: 5% extra per hour for out of social hours not including weekends.”
“The pay is probably the best you'll find in the region for Police Officers.”
“I don't know what it is but a large number of people are overly negative and also only lookout for themselves and their career.”
“It’s challenging and great for self development”
“Good and Nice place to work”
“And it works so I don't know what others are talking about to be perfectly honest.”
Police Officer Interviews
Frequently asked questions about the role and responsibilities of police officers
The daily work of police officers includes patrolling assigned neighborhoods, responding to traffic accidents or incidents, responding to emergencies, completing paperwork, testifying in court cases, providing protection for special events, directing traffic, and assisting in solving crimes. They typically work assigned shifts.
Yes, police officers are typically well-respected in their community. Though they are placed in dangerous situations, police officers work with others who are trained to provide backup and support in every situation. Although there are some elements that can be mundane, much of a police officer's time is spent looking for ways to protect others and help people in crisis.
Working as a police officer can be a dangerous job, and there may be situations that are difficult to cope with emotionally. Some police work is physically demanding, and the job requires officers to be trained in safely using their weapons. Police uniforms are a requirement and can be stiff with protective gear. The best police officers are those who can react quickly and appropriately in an emergency and help to calm and comfort victims.