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Police officer facts for kids

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Police officer
South Australia Police officers at a protest.jpg
Occupation
Activity sectors
Law enforcement, public safety, civil service, public service rescue, protection of private property
Description
Education required
Secondary or tertiary education
Fields of
employment
Public areas
Related jobs
gendarmerie, military police, security guard, bodyguard
Australian Mounted Police Victoria-edit1
Australian Mounted Police Victoria-edit1

A police officer is a serving member of a police force. Police officers arrest criminals, prevent crime, protect and help the public, and keep public order. Officers have legally authorised powers, which in Britain is called a warrant.

Duties and functions

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An arrest

Responsibilities of a police officer are varied, and may differ greatly from within one political context to another. Typical duties relate to keeping the peace, law enforcement, protection of people and property and the investigation of crimes. Officers are expected to respond to a variety of situations that may arise while they are on duty.

Rules and guidelines dictate how an officer should behave within the community, and in many contexts, restrictions are placed on what the uniformed officer wears.

In some countries, rules and procedures dictate that a police officer is obliged to intervene in a criminal incident, even if they are off-duty. Police officers in nearly all countries retain their lawful powers while off duty.

In the majority of Western legal systems, the major role of the police is to maintain order, keeping the peace through surveillance of the public, and the subsequent reporting and apprehension of suspected violators of the law. They also function to discourage crimes through high-visibility policing, and most police forces have an investigative capability. Police have the legal authority to arrest and detain, usually granted by magistrates. Police officers also respond to emergency calls, along with routine community policing.

Police are often used as an emergency service and may provide a public safety function at large gatherings, as well as in emergencies, disasters, search and rescue situations, and road traffic collisions. To provide a prompt response in emergencies, the police often coordinate their operations with fire and emergency medical services. In some countries, individuals serve jointly as police officers as well as firefighters (creating the role of fire police). In many countries, there is a common emergency service number that allows the police, firefighters, or medical services to be summoned to an emergency. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom have outlined command procedures, for the use in major emergencies or disorder. The Gold Silver Bronze command structure is a system set up to improve communications between ground-based officers and the control room, typically, Bronze Commander would be a senior officer on the ground, coordinating the efforts in the center of the emergency, Silver Commanders would be positioned in an 'Incident Control Room' erected to improve better communications at the scene, and a Gold Commander who would be in the Control Room.

Police are also responsible for reprimanding minor offenders by issuing citations which typically may result in the imposition of fines, particularly for violations of traffic law. Traffic enforcement is often and effectively accomplished by police officers on motorcycles—called motor officers, these officers refer to the motorcycles they ride on duty as simply motors. Police are also trained to assist persons in distress, such as motorists whose car has broken down and people experiencing a medical emergency. Police are typically trained in basic first aid such as CPR.

Some park rangers are commissioned as law enforcement officers and carry out a law-enforcement role within national parks and other back-country wilderness and recreational areas, whereas Military police perform law enforcement functions within the military.

Teenagers that are interested in a career in law enforcement, can join a local police Explorer program or related program to help with a career in law enforcement.

Entry and promotion qualifications

In most countries, candidates for the police force must have completed some formal education. Increasing numbers of people are joining the police force who possess tertiary education and in response to this many police forces have developed a "fast-track" scheme whereby those with university degrees spend two to three years as a Constable before receiving promotion to higher ranks, such as Sergeants or Inspectors. (Officers who work within investigative divisions or plainclothes are not necessarily of a higher rank but merely have different duties.) Police officers are also recruited from those with experience in the military or security services. In the United States state laws may codify statewide qualification standards regarding age, education, criminal record, and training but in other places requirements are set by local police agencies. Each local Police agency has different requirements.

Pol mun agenti
Officers of the Polizia Municipale from Piacenza, Italy

Promotion is not automatic and usually requires the candidate to pass some kind of examination, interview board or other selection procedure. Although promotion normally includes an increase in salary, it also brings with it an increase in responsibility and for most, an increase in administrative paperwork. There is no stigma attached to this, as experienced line patrol officers are highly regarded.

Dependent upon each agency, but generally after completing two years of service, officers may apply for specialist positions, such as detective, police dog handler, mounted police officer, motorcycle officer, water police officer, or firearms officer (in countries where police are not routinely armed).

In some countries, including Singapore, police ranks are supplemented through conscription, similar to national service in the military. Qualifications may thus be relaxed or enhanced depending on the target mix of conscripts. Conscripts face tougher physical requirements in areas such as eyesight, but minimum academic qualification requirements are less stringent. Some join as volunteers, again via differing qualification requirements.

Equipment

British Policeman
British police officer

In different countries, police officers are given different equipment to deal with the crime that is in their country. All police officers are armed with weapons that they can use to defend themselves or other people that need help. Most police officers carry these things:

  • a gun or a baton/truncheon to injure or in some cases kill criminals if necessary.
  • a canister of CS gas or pepper spray, which blinds a person for a short amount of time
  • a set of handcuffs, for restraining a person
  • a protection vest, to protect a police officer from knives and guns
  • a flashlight, for lighting dark places
  • a two-way radio, to call for help, give information to other officers and to get backup.

Police officers have to patrol and respond to emergencies as quickly as possible. Some police officers will walk on foot patrol, but often police officers will patrol in a police car. This is so that they can get to emergencies faster and carry more equipment. Sometimes officers patrol on bicycles, motorbikes or on horses because they have chosen to work in that unit.

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