Careers in a Police Department
Numerous types of positions are available
Uniformed officers and other personnel in a police department work together closely to keep the public safe. They work all hours of the day and night, solving cases and preventing crime. Working in a police department can be highly rewarding, and there may be more career options than you think. Here are a few of the jobs you'll find in a police department.
The police chief is the top administrator and public face of a police department. All uniformed officers and civilian personnel are in the chief’s line of supervision. The chief holds operational and financial power over the department. Depending on the city’s form of government, the chief may report to the mayor or the city manager.
Police officers put their lives on the line every day as they protect the public from crime. Officers patrol areas by car, motorcycle, horseback, or on foot. They issue traffic citations, direct traffic for special events, and deal with traffic signal malfunctions and accidents. They're typically the first responders when a crime occurs on the street. They assist other personnel in casework and write reports.
Police detectives are sworn peace officers who investigate crimes with the goal of handing cases over to prosecutors. Detectives use physical and testimonial evidence to piece together a probable version of events leading to and following the commission of a crime. Like most other jobs in law enforcement, a detective's job can be highly dangerous at times.
Crime scene investigators are uniformed officers who identify, collect, process, and protect evidence. They may witness some gruesome sights when they're called to a crime scene. They assist detectives in analyzing the evidence. By ensuring that a documented chain of evidence custody exists, they reduce the risk that criminal defense attorneys can get a judge to throw out evidence.
Evidence technicians are civilian employees who have expertise in preserving and interpreting evidence provided to them by detectives and investigators. They often work in labs with scientific tools and techniques but will occasionally appear at crime scenes as well. They participate in solving crimes without having to carry a gun, track down evidence, or make arrests. This may make an appealing choice for those who want to be involved in law enforcement without being on the front lines.
Victim advocates help crime victims cope with trauma. They help them navigate the criminal justice system. Advocates are liaisons between victims and the criminal courts. They attend court with victims, help them file paperwork, and arrange for necessary services. After a trial, they keep victims up to date with important events related to the convicted criminal, such as upcoming parole hearings or appeals.
School Resource Officer
School resource officers (SROs) are police officers assigned to public schools. They investigate reports of criminal activity on and around school grounds. They work with school administrators to develop and implement crime mitigation strategies. Police departments negotiate arrangements with school districts to provide SROs and, in turn, districts typically cover the salaries and benefits that departments pay to SROs.
It's Up to You
There are numerous jobs in law enforcement; this list represents only a few of the options that may be available in your area. Something is bound to match your interests, talents, and abilities. Some require more education than others. Many are attained by rising through the ranks within a department, but entry-level openings may be available to get your foot in the door.