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Career profile Police Officer

Also known as Deputy, Deputy Sheriff, Deputy Sheriff (Generalist)-Bailiff, Law Enforcement Officer, Patrol Officer, Peace Officer, Police Officer, Police Patrol Officer, Public Safety Officer, State Trooper

Police Officer

Also known as Deputy, Deputy Sheriff, Deputy Sheriff (Generalist)-Bailiff

Interests Profile
  • Enterprising
  • Realistic
  • Social
Pay Range
$38,420 - $109,040 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Active Listening
  • Speaking
  • Critical Thinking
Knowledge Areas
  • Public Safety and Security
  • Law and Government
  • Psychology
Core tasks
  • Conduct community programs for all ages concerning topics such as drugs and violence.
  • Provide for public safety by maintaining order, responding to emergencies, protecting people and property, enforcing motor vehicle and criminal laws, and promoting good community relations.
  • Identify, pursue, and arrest suspects and perpetrators of criminal acts.
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What does a Police Officer do?

Police Officers maintain order and protect life and property by enforcing local, tribal, state, or federal laws and ordinances.

In addition, Police Officers

  • perform a combination of the following duties: patrol a specific area; direct traffic; issue traffic summonses; investigate accidents; apprehend and arrest suspects, or serve legal processes of courts,
  • includes police officers working at educational institutions.

What kind of tasks does a Police Officer perform regularly?

Police Officers are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Provide for public safety by maintaining order, responding to emergencies, protecting people and property, enforcing motor vehicle and criminal laws, and promoting good community relations.
  • Identify, pursue, and arrest suspects and perpetrators of criminal acts.
  • Record facts to prepare reports that document incidents and activities.
  • Render aid to accident victims and other persons requiring first aid for physical injuries.
  • Review facts of incidents to determine if criminal act or statute violations were involved.
  • Investigate illegal or suspicious activities.
  • Monitor, note, report, and investigate suspicious persons and situations, safety hazards, and unusual or illegal activity in patrol area.
  • Drive vehicles or patrol specific areas to detect law violators, issue citations, and make arrests.
  • Testify in court to present evidence or act as witness in traffic and criminal cases.
  • Monitor traffic to ensure motorists observe traffic regulations and exhibit safe driving procedures.
  • Relay complaint and emergency-request information to appropriate agency dispatchers.
  • Verify that the proper legal charges have been made against law offenders.
  • Execute arrest warrants, locating and taking persons into custody.
  • Evaluate complaint and emergency-request information to determine response requirements.
  • Photograph or draw diagrams of crime or accident scenes and interview principals and eyewitnesses.
  • Patrol specific area on foot, horseback, or motorized conveyance, responding promptly to calls for assistance.
  • Investigate traffic accidents and other accidents to determine causes and to determine if a crime has been committed.
  • Direct traffic flow and reroute traffic in case of emergencies.
  • Notify patrol units to take violators into custody or to provide needed assistance or medical aid.
  • Serve statements of claims, subpoenas, summonses, jury summonses, orders to pay alimony, and other court orders.
  • Question individuals entering secured areas to determine their business, directing and rerouting individuals as necessary.
  • Patrol and guard courthouses, grand jury rooms, or assigned areas to provide security, enforce laws, maintain order, and arrest violators.
  • Transport or escort prisoners and defendants en route to courtrooms, prisons or jails, attorneys' offices, or medical facilities.
  • Inform citizens of community services and recommend options to facilitate longer-term problem resolution.
  • Locate and confiscate real or personal property, as directed by court order.
  • Provide road information to assist motorists.

The above responsibilities are specific to Police Officers. More generally, Police Officers are involved in several broader types of activities:

Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others
Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.

What is a Police Officer salary?

The median salary for a Police Officer is $65,540, and the average salary is $0. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Police Officer salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Police Officers earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Police Officers earn less than $38,420 per year, 25% earn less than $48,950, 75% earn less than $86,880, and 90% earn less than $109,040.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Police Officers is expected to change by 7.2%, and there should be roughly 57,600 open positions for Police Officers every year.

Median annual salary
$65,540
Typical salary range
$38,420 - $109,040
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
7.2%

What personality traits are common among Police Officers?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Police Officer are usually higher in their Enterprising, Realistic, and Social interests.

Police Officers typically have very strong Enterprising interests. Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.

Also, Police Officers typically have very strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Lastly, Police Officers typically have moderate Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Police Officer tend to value Achievement, Relationships, and Support.

Most importantly, Police Officers strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Second, Police Officers strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Lastly, Police Officers strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Police Officers must consistently demonstrate qualities such as integrity, self-control, and dependability.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Police Officers, ranked by importance:

Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Self-Control
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Stress Tolerance
Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.

What education and training do Police Officers need?

Police Officers often have training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.

Police Officers usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Police Officers

  • 0.7% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 12.4% completed high school or secondary school
  • 30.3% completed some college coursework
  • 17.1% earned a Associate's degree
  • 32.1% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 6.5% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.8% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Police Officers

Police Officers may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as public safety and security, law and government, or psychology knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Police Officers might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Public Safety and Security
Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Law and Government
Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
Psychology
Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.

Important Abilities needed by Police Officers

Police Officers must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Police Officers need abilities such as problem sensitivity, oral expression, and oral comprehension in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Police Officers, ranked by their relative importance.

Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Inductive Reasoning
The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
Deductive Reasoning
The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.

Critical Skills needed by Police Officers

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Police Officers frequently use skills like active listening, speaking, and critical thinking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Police Officers, ranked by their relative importance.

Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Speaking
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Social Perceptiveness
Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Negotiation
Bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.