Whether employed by federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies, all detectives, police and federal agents pursue lawbreakers and give warnings, issue citations, or apprehend the individual accused of wrongdoing. Police officers normally patrol within their jurisdictions and if they notice suspicious activity, they will detain and question a suspect to determine if a crime is in progress. Responding to calls for help from the public is another part of their duties. Each incident they respond to or encounter must be accompanied by a written report, and therefore, they spend considerable time constructing and maintaining accurate records that are needed if the officer is called on to testify in court.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the salary of a police officer in a medium sized city may start at an annual rate of $36,500 to $43,000, and end with a maximum rate of $49,500, depending on promotions earned and longevity. If a police officer is promoted up through the ranks from sergeant, to lieutenant, to captain, for instance, his salary would increase with each promotion, and could reach over $83,509, depending on the size and budget of the city. A police chief, likewise, may expect annual earnings from $90,570 to $113,930 over the course of his career. Median wage for detectives and criminal investigators may start at $29.86 an hour for those employed per diem or as needed, or $62,110 if hired full time with a 40-hr. work week. Agents for immigration, and border patrol agents can expect to earn from $38,619 at entry level, to $63,259 yearly.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Special agents, usually called detectives, are plainclothes officers and perform duties of investigating, collecting evidence and gathering facts. Assigned to a variety of daily activities, enforcement officers’ duties correspond to their specialty, such as detective, police officer, federal agent, or DEA–Drug Enforcement Administration–agents. Most uniformed officers have general duties such as responding to calls for help, investigating an assault or burglary, or preventing one in progress, or giving aid and controlling traffic at an accident scene. In cities where police departments are larger, officers and agents normally perform certain kinds of duties, such as special victims units, investigating sexual offences, participate in a drug task force, or a special weapons and tactics force–a SWAT team. In all locations and whatever duties are assigned to them, all officers and agents keep written records and reports of every incident and activity that they have engaged in over the course of their shift.
Other officers in law enforcement work in agencies that involve immigration and customs enforcement, interviewing individuals trying to enter the United States, border patrol, protecting over 8,000 miles of international boundaries, and the United States Secret Service, charged with protecting the President and other government officials and their families. The special agents of the Secret Service also investigate forgery, credit card fraud and counterfeiting.
For qualified individuals, job opportunities will be favorable in most local police departments. Those seeking jobs within Federal and State agencies, however, can expect more competition. College trained bilingual applicants with degrees in political science, or those with military police experience, will have more employment opportunities.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
Police officers go through a period of training before receiving their first assignments. State and local police departments train their recruits in their police academy for up to 14 weeks. Training includes, but is not limited to, use of firearms, emergency response, self-defense, first aid and traffic control. In larger cities, police departments may hire teens in high school as trainees, or police cadets, to do paper work and attend classroom instruction for a year or two, until they meet the age requirement–usually 18–and are eligible for appointment to the regular police force.
Applicants are encouraged to take training or law-enforcement related courses after high school, and many who apply have some formal education or are even college graduates. Programs and courses in law enforcement or administration are offered by many colleges and universities. Some police departments or agencies pay tuition for their officers to earn degrees in police science, criminal justice or public administration. Degreed officers and agents typically earn higher salaries.
To work for a Federal agency, an applicant must hold a bachelor’s degree, have related work experience, or a combination of both. Federal agents complete extensive training at the base in Quantico, Virginia, or the Federal Training Center in Georgia. Federal agencies post their training information, qualifications, and educational requirements on their respective websites of the particular agencies.
Certification varies among police departments and agencies, but in general, a combination of formal education, training and job experience, as well as passing agency exams and tests, are all that is needed to earn the required certifications for police officers and State and Federal agents.
Law enforcement agents may belong to several professional associations such as the National Association of Police Officers, International Police Association Law Enforcement, Union of Police Associations, and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences Law Enforcement. Government employees or Federal agents have professional associations such as the American Federation of Government Employees, National Association of Government Employees, American Jail Association, and the American Public Works Association.
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