People depend on police officers to protect their lives and property. Law enforcement
officers, some of whom are State or
Federal special agents or inspectors, perform
these duties in a variety of ways, depending on the size and type of their
organization. In most jurisdictions, they are expected to exercise
necessary, whether on or off duty. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 65 percent of State and local law enforcement officers are uniformed
Uniformed police officers who work in municipal police departments of various sizes,
small communities, and rural areas have general law enforcement duties including
maintaining regular patrols and responding to calls for service. They may direct
traffic at the scene of a fire, investigate a burglary, or give first aid to an accident victim. In large
police departments, officers usually are assigned to a specific type of duty.
Many urban police agencies are becoming more involved in community policing-a practice in which an officer builds
relationships with the citizens of local neighborhoods and mobilizes the public to help fight crime.
Police agencies are usually organized into geographic districts, with uniformed officers
assigned to patrol a specific area, such as part of the business district or outlying residential neighborhoods. Officers may work alone, but in large agencies they often patrol with a partner. While
on patrol, officers attempt to become thoroughly familiar with their patrol area and remain alert for anything unusual. Suspicious circumstances and hazards to public safety are investigated or
noted, and officers are dispatched to individual calls for assistance within their district. During their shift, they may identify, pursue, and arrest suspected criminals, resolve problems within the
community, and enforce traffic laws.
Some police officers specialize in such diverse fields as chemical and microscopic analysis, training and firearms instruction, or handwriting and
fingerprint identification. Others work with special units such as bicycle, canine corps, or emergency response teams. Regardless of job duties or location, police officers at all levels must write
reports and maintain meticulous records that will be needed if they testify in court.