Police officers play a central role in the law enforcement system. They monitor criminal activity, take part in community patrols, respond to emergency calls, issue tickets, make arrests, investigate crimes and testify in court as needed. While you normally need only a high school diploma to qualify for police academy training, many police officers have two- or four-year degrees in criminal justice. The median annual pay for police and detectives in 2010 was $55,010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Serve and Protect
A police officer's first order of business is to serve and protect. In fact, the phrase "serve and protect" is common in the credo of many law enforcement agencies. Police officers serve their communities by helping citizens in times of crisis and emergency, such as when a natural disaster hits. To protect citizens on the road, they issue tickets to dangerous and careless drivers. To protect them in their communities, they make arrests that deter illegal and dangerous behavior.
Police officers and detectives routinely investigate crimes. When someone calls the police department after a crime is committed, officers in the area respond to the call. They take statements from parties involved in the incident as well as any witnesses to get additional information and statements. Officers also gather up any evidence immediately accessible and help section off areas where the crime occurred so forensic scientists can come and do more thorough evidence searches.
The community involvement facet of a police officer's duties often gets overlooked. However, many officers are active in service projects and activities. Their public service roles include speaking at schools and businesses, where officers educate people on how to avoid dangerous situations and handle emergency situations. Other forms of community involvement include drug prevention and education and driver safety programs. These duties help create a better rapport between law enforcement and citizens.
Call Response and Emergencies
When on duty, police officers are on alert for radio calls from precincts. While some calls involve major crimes, many involve minor incidents such as noise complaints or traffic incidents. Police officers are also trained in CPR and emergency response systems and show up to aid injured people.
About the Author
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.
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To Serve and protect is one of the mottos of the police force. There are still policemen and policewomen who are out there risking their lives for the humankind, regardless of gender, background, race or religion. They are the reason why people can sleep at night without any hesitation or fear.
All the police forces, whether they are in as small as a campus or as big as a state, have the duty to pursue and bring to justice those who break the law, keep the peace and protect and reassure the community (The Role and Responsibilities of the Police, n.d.).
In line with the above-mentioned, this paper aims to compare and contrast both the roles and responsibilities regarding the public and private policing. These can be distinguished based on the following: jurisdiction or area of responsibility, powers or authority, approach, resources, gravity of the criminal offense, responsiveness, extent of crime prevention, visibility to the people, relationship with the community and involvement with the people.
Police, whether public or private, both have the mission to maintain public order and safety, though the difference here lies in their area of jurisdiction. For instance, the private police guard small populations in a campus, mall or any building. Thus, they have relatively small environment where they must ensure to uphold the law (The Role and Responsibilities of the Police, n.d.). Meanwhile, the public police has jurisdiction of areas as large as a state and this inhibits the means for both the public police and the local communities to have a close working relationship. In addition, both public and private police officers should be adept and knowledgeable about their areas of jurisdiction. The difference in this setup is that it would be easier for private police officers to get a grasp of what is happening in their areas since they are in charge of a small area such as a school. Meanwhile, public police officers are given enough resources such as online criminal records to safeguard their areas of jurisdiction, which is a state, for example.
Another difference that the public police force and the private police force are the powers or authority bestowed upon them. Mostly, a private policeman or policewoman is given authority as peace officers (Skogan, 1994). This means they can execute certain powers such as safekeeping of the population within his or her area of responsibility and stopping riots and pandemonium. Meanwhile, the public police forces are entitled to exercise their authority to make arrests and put the offender in jail.
Those who are engaged in private policing patrol their areas of responsibility in an effort to combat crime, which is a very effective means of reducing misdemeanor. When such offense is detected, which the private police encounters firsthand, they would then alert the public police. On the other hand, those who are involved on public policing receive feedback from a concerned citizen or a group via 911 emergency calls (Skogan, 1994). For instance, the first team that responded to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is the private security practitioners unit that is stationed within the World Trade Center that the terrorists attacked. They played their key role in protecting the business or corporate environments. They were instrumental in getting many people safely out of the buildings. They were the first responders: they were already on the scene at the time of the attacks and, unfortunately, in some instances, they were also the first victims during the terrorist attack (Skogan, 1994). Meanwhile, the public police, after receiving notice of the attacks, proceeded to the scene to secure the area and evacuate terrorist victims. As seen here, the private police take a more proactive approach in dealing with crime since they are in the scene of the crime and while the public police needs the help and assistance of the public to present crucial information to process and close reported cases and offenses. If not, then, this affects the public police to deliver timely service to the local communities.
Another factor that diversifies the public police and private police is the resources. Private policing thrives in the past few years due to the emergence of voluntary self-help organizations such as neighborhood watchers that provide protection for local communities. There is also the rise of the privatized security agencies, which are funded by some people in the private sector. On the other hand, âit had been only during the past recent years that there had been a real growth in government expenditure on law enforcement services. Before, the resources of the public police unit have been held steady or reducedâ (The Role and Responsibilities of the Police, n.d., p. 7).
In terms of gravity of the offense, the public police and the private or local police equally must ensure that the rule of law must be properly implemented and observe so, the right castigation must be done with relation to the criminal offense. The discrepancy to how a public police and a private police handle a criminal offense is its gravity. For example, in case the offense if a disorderly conduct, then, the private or local police shall handle such offense. On the other hand, if the crime is murder or the offense is of interest to a whole state or across the United States, for instance, then, the public police shall handle such case (Skogan, 1994).
Both the public and the private police exercise quick response to the environment where crime is committed. The distinction between the two bodies is that the private police have the advantage to quickly get to the crime scene and there is a large opportunity for them to witness the crime being committed. In effect, they would be the first to attempt to witness, handle and control such offense. Meanwhile, the public police depends on the information given by the victim or witness to the crime. If they donât get any report of a crime being committed on time, then, there are lesser chances of handling the offense correctly since evidence may already be compromised (Skogan, 1994).
Both the public and private police forces have the responsibility towards crime prevention. But the thing is, it would be easier for the private police to handle such task since they are guarding controlled environments such as malls. Also, there are other local organizations or programs that help deal with crime prevention. These are neighborhood watches, target hardening and youth and economic development. Public police officers have mobile patrols to observe their âbeatsâ or their assigned areas for signs of disorder or chaos.
Being visible to the people is also one of the means to foster cooperation and awareness between the community and the police. The public police have attempted to do an initiative such as foot patrol (Cooke & Hahn, n.d.). It has been the assumption of the public that the foot patrol must be increased so as to control the crime rate in their areas. It turned out that this practice has no great impact on the reduction of crime. Thus, the public force must deal with the fact that they are not visible to the public. Nevertheless, the public police officers must show that they do their responsibilities with integrity, common sense and sound judgment in order to obtain the publicâs trust. On the other hand, private police is either stationed on his or her post or do rounds on the area he or she protects and safeguards. This being the case, their rate of visibility to the people in their secured environment would feel safe and sound due to the private policeâs presence. In case there are situations wherein a person experiences a threat, he or she would be able to inform the private police of that incident and the latter would be able to handle such incident.
Another thing that needs to be considered is the relationship of the police force with the community (Cooke & Hahn, n.d.). Whether it is the public police or private police, they must ensure that their coordination with the public lies in a strong foundation. This demands a big effort on the part of the public force since they have wide areas to secure. Unlike the public police force, the private police force has a relatively easy time in garnering a good relationship with the people since their jurisdiction is on a small scale.
Involving the people in ensuring the wellness and safety of the public is also one effective way for the private police to not just âsaveâ money but this also raises public awareness as well. For instance, the San Antonio Police Department has launched programs such as Community Services and School Service Programs, Crime Prevention Programs (Neighborhood Watch, National Night Out), Store Fronts, Decentralized Patrol Substations and the Downtown Foot and Bicycle Patrol Unit. In 1995, the Department created a special Community Policing Unit, the San Antonio Fear Free Environment Unit or SAFFE that links closely with community involvement programs, such as Cellular on Patrol, which was initiated in 1993, and the Citizen Police Academy, which was initiated in 1994. (Community Policing, n.d.). In the United Kingdom, it is even proposed by the home secretary, David Blunkett, âto change local police authorities through partially or wholly election rather than perform appointmentsâ (Public to Influence Local Policing, 2003, November). In this manner, the public will know who their local police officers are. Once the camaraderie between the police force and the public is grown and nourished, the latter would be an excellent source of intelligence for the police (Public to Influence Local Policing, 2003, November) since they know what is happening in their neighborhoods firsthand.
Meanwhile, the public police force only coordinates with the concerned groups to elicit information and gather evidence. They do not work directly with people to solve problems that are of concern to them.
Although there are major differences between the roles and responsibilities of a public police officer and a private police officer, their main goal is the same: to uphold the law and protect the people and property within their jurisdiction (Role and Responsibilities of the Police, n.d.). What is important here is that each helps one another in order to fully alleviate, if not extinguish, crime.
The Role and Responsibilities of the Police. (n.d.). Retrieved January 1, 2007, from http://www.psi.org.uk/publications/archivepdfs/Role%20pol/INDPOL-1.2.pdf
Skogan, Wesley G. Roles and Responsibilities of Community Policing (1994). Retrieved January 1, 2007, from http://www.police-foundation.org.uk/files/POLICE0001/CasselsInquiry/Cassels%20of%20reference.pdf
Cooke, Leonard G., & Hahn, Lisa R. (n.d.). The Missing Link in Homeland Security. Retrieved January 1, 2007, from http://policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display&article_id=1048&&issue_id=112006
Community Policing Overview (n.d.). Retrieved January 1, 2007, from
Public to Influence Local Policing (2003). Retrieved January 1, 2007, from http://www.bbc.org.uk