What Do Police Officers Do?
Police officers are responsible for enforcing the law, and patrol neighborhoods to provide safety. Many police departments use the mission statement “to serve and protect” and their primary objective is to help and aid citizens in settling domestic disputes, intervening in robberies, burglaries or drug trafficking, and providing traffic safety.
Recruits typically train with a more experienced officer by patrolling in the same vehicle or taking instruction at the scene of crimes. A period of probation is necessary and police officer salary range for recruits is typically in the mid-twenties to mid-thirties, depending on the city,
Most Police officers patrol, either in a vehicle with a partner or alone, on a bicycle, on a motorcycle, or in a specialized vehicle. This type of work can mean responding to emergencies and setting up crime scenes, but the majority of patrol officers deal with traffic situations or domestic abuse calls. Some officers rotate out of patrol and take desk or administrative assignments to help manage the department.
In a major crime such as homicide, suicide or kidnapping the detectives working the case may ask the responding officer for details. Police officers who patrol will come upon crimes in which they need to call for backup or call a more specialized officer to the scene. Knowing how to secure a crime scene is an important part of training.
Certain units within police departments will need officers to specialize in vice (gambling, prostitution), homicide (murder scenes), or SWAT (emergency response). Drug enforcement officers are not uncommon. All of these duties can be learned through instruction and on-the-job training, as well as passing exams to move up the ladder.
Individuals who pass the basic sergeant’s test can move up the ranks and become detectives who solve crimes against citizens or try to prevent crime. Typically, detectives need about ten years of experience before becoming investigators. The police officer salary for detectives runs from $50,000 up to $90,000 and higher in large urban centers.
Managers and Instructors
Police officers need training regularly, and experienced officers will help run training academies and recruit new officers. Individuals in this role typically have at least ten years of experience and usually have done specialized police work, such as vice or burglary.
Police Officer Salary and Job Outlook
Police officers are needed in every jurisdiction so there are plenty of opportunities to become trained and employed.
Police Officer Salary in Rural Areas
In small towns and farming communities, police officers make less money but their jobs are usually less stressful. They are often respected members of the community and can work on a variety of cases. Salaries in smaller towns begin in the mid-20s and range up to $75,000 for a Police Chief or experienced Detective. Experienced officers in small towns typically earn over $50,000 per year after about seven years.
Police Officer Salary in Urban Areas
In larger cities of over 1 million or more, Police officer Salary ranges begin around $30,000 for new recruits and lead up to over $100,000 for high-level managers and Police Chief positions. For experienced Detectives or specialized units, salaries hover in the $70,000 to $80,000 range.
Job Outlook in the Next Ten Years
Police officers cannot easily be replaced by machines, robots, or virtual employees. They cannot work remotely and globalization has little effect on this job. In the next ten years, the job outlook is good for this type of work, with a six to seven percent increase in most types of police work. For specialized areas such as Fish and Game, the outlook is lower—about four percent—but for patrol officers and detectives, a seven percent increase is a healthy rise which means plenty of jobs and promotional opportunities.
How to Become a Police Officer
The career of a Police officer requires passing basic tests and enduring difficult learning experiences in getting used to the type of work. It requires excellent people skills and the ability to think on your feet at all times. Only a high school degree is required to become a police officer although some seek four-year degrees or even law degrees in their first decade on the job.
Police officers must pass a basic physical exam that includes at least a half mile of running, sit-ups, push-ups and sprinting. The test can be taken as many times as is necessary and this is usually the first step after the written application is submitted.
Once physical tests are met, the applicant is given a battery of psych tests, including long exams such as the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) to measure whether the applicant is mentally and emotionally stable.
Oral Board and Academy
Having passed tests, there is sometimes and Oral Board Exam, which is a series of questions from other officers much like an interview. These exams don’t occur in all departments but are common. If the Oral Board is successful, the applicant begins an 8 to 12-week academy with other recruits.
Oral Board and Academy
After the academy, the supervised patrol begins when a recruit rides shifts with a more experienced officer. This probationary period lasts from six months to a year depending on department policies.
Police Officer Salary - Conclusion
The police officer salary is a great way to use the high school education if a long-term career is part of your plans. Police officers can, with grit and determination, rise to salaries of $70,000 or more while serving their communities.