Duties and responsibilities
Police patrol Officers maintain order and protect a community by enforcing laws. They patrol an assigned area to prevent illegal activity and assure the safety of citizens. Their typical duties and responsibilities include:
- Monitoring their assigned area, either on foot, bicycle, car or horseback
- Looking out for suspicious, unauthorized or illegal activity.
- Conducting on-the-scene investigations
- Arresting persons on misdemeanor and felony charges
- Completing all necessary reports concerning the alleged crime they arrested a person for, the circumstances of arrest and evidence obtained
- Responding to reports of possible crime or emergencies
- Providing assistance to any motorists in need of aid
- Working closely with the community to build up good relations
To become a police patrol officer, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent. On the job training is then provided to give you all the skills and knowledge needed to become a successful patrol officer. A degree is by no means essential, but may help you progress quicker into more senior positions.
Skills and relevant work experience
As the job is physically demanding, patrol officers must be physically fit and in good physical shape. They should also have skills such as:
- Empathy, as they will need to understand the perspectives of a wide range of people from different religions, cultures and backgrounds
- Leadership skills as patrol officers must be comfortable with being a highly visible member of their community, as the public looks to them for assistance in emergency situations
- Decision making skills are essential as patrol officers must be able to quickly determine the best way to solve a wide array of problems
- Communication skills, as patrol officers must be able to speak with people when gathering facts about a crime. Written communication skills are also essential for writing up cases and maintaining documents
Patrol officers tend to work full time hours (over 40 per week) and paid overtime is common. Police patrol officers tend to work shifts, which can mean their hours are sometimes be antisocial.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for police and detectives, which includes patrol officers, in the United States was $65,170 in 2019, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $37,710, and the highest 10 percent earning more than $109,620.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of police and detectives is projected to grow 5 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. In terms of progression within the police force, most higher ranking police officers and detectives begin their careers as patrol officers, meaning that career progression is common.