A police officer (also known as a policeman or policewoman) is a warranted employee of a police force. Police officers are generally responsible for apprehending criminals, prevention and detection of crime and maintenance of public order along with community interaction. Police officers are generally "Sworn" to an oath, along with being granted the power to arrest and imprison suspects, among other procedures. Some police officers may also be trained in special duties such as counter-terrorism; surveillance; child protection; royalty or diplomatic protection; and investigating major crime such as fraud, rape, murder or drug trafficking.
The responsibilities of a police officer are often extremely broad. Although their main responsibilities are usually keeping the peace, enforcing the law, protecting the public and property, and the prevention and detection of crimes, officers are usually expected to be able to respond in some fashion to a wide variety of situations that may arise while they are on duty. Also officers must act as government officials in the cases of an investigation. In some communities, rules and procedures governing conduct and duties of police officers requires that they act if needed even when they are off duty, such as the United Kingdom, along with many other countries, where police officers retain full powers of arrest while not on duty.
Police are often used as an emergency service and may provide a public safety function at large gatherings, as well as in emergencies, disasters, and search and rescue situations, 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) or paramedics. 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 woul 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 motorists whose car has broken down and people experiencing a medical emergency. Police are typically trained in basic First aid such as CPR.
In addition, 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.
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 Police 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. Most law enforcement agencies now have measurable physical fitness requirements for officers. In the United States state laws may codify state-wide qualification standards regarding age, education, criminal record, and training but in other places requirements are set by local police agencies.
Police agencies are usually semi-military in organization, so that with specified experience or training qualifications officers become eligible for promotion to a higher supervisory rank, such as sergeant. 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. Unlike military service, it is not unusual for police officers to remain or choose to remain at lower levels, choosing not to apply for promotion. There is no stigma attached to this, as experienced line patrol officers are highly regarded.
After completing a certain period of service, officers may also 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 such as in Singapore, police ranks may also be supplemented through conscription, similar to national service in the military. Qualifications may thus be relaxed or enhanced depending on the target mix of conscripts. In Singapore, for example, conscripts face tougher physical requirements in areas such as eyesight, but are less stringent with minimum academic qualification requirements. Some police officers also join as volunteers, who again may do so via differing qualification requirements.
Individuals are drawn to police work for many reasons. Among these often include a desire to protect the public and social order from criminals and danger; a desire to hold a position of respect and authority; a disdain for or antipathy towards criminals and rule breakers; the professional challenges of the work; the employment benefits that are provided with civil service jobs in many countries; the sense of camaraderie that often holds among police; or a family tradition of police work or civil service. An important task of the recruitment activity of police agencies in many countries is screening potential candidates to determine the fitness of their character and personality for the work, often through background investigations and consultation with a psychologist. Even though police work is very dangerous, police officers are still seen by most people as necessary to maintain order. As a result, police officers are generally held in high regard by the population they serve, although this can vary from country to country, depending on past experiences with the police or general national perception.
Police officers who die in the line of duty, especially those who die from the actions of suspects, are often given elaborate funerals, attended by large numbers of fellow officers. Their families may also be entitled to special pensions. Fallen officers are often remembered in public memorials, such as the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in the U.S. or Care of Police Survivors (COPS) in the U.K.
18,838 law enforcement officers are known to have died in the line of duty in the United States. In Canada, 757 law enforcement officers met a similar fate. In the United Kingdom, about 3,600 law enforcement officers are known to have died in the line of duty. The Singapore Police Force registered just over 100 deaths in a century up to the year 2000. There have been 28 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in New Zealand since 1890.
A typical police officer, dependent on duties may carry various equipment on their duty belt, to assist them in performing their duties
The equipment carried typically includes some or all of the following (varies from country to country):
Vehicle-based officers may also typically carry additional equipment, as would those assigned to specialist units.
Equipment carried on patrol vehicles might typically include: