Police officers, or cops, are held to a very high standard of law. They work hard to keep communities safe and educated, but train too. We know cops put their lives on the line, but most people don’t know what goes on in their day to day life. While each department, city, day, and position will vary, here is a what a police officer expects for a general day on the job.
Starting the Day
Depending on what shift the officer is on, they will most likely be waking up from a nice long sleep or a nap. After showering, they must make sure they are dressed clean and precise for an inspection. The officers with families will kiss them goodbye and head to the station to begin their shift.
If an officer has a patrol car they use for work, the shift starts as soon as they leave their house. Most other shifts start with a roll call and announcements. During these announcements, updates are given on anything that might be needing attention, special assignments made, and BOLO alerts issued, which means be on the lookout.
Before officers leave out on patrol, they must inspect their patrol car to make sure everything is right. The vehicle should be just as it was left with everything working. Officers will check to make sure all vital equipment is accounted for, including flares, fire extinguishers, and first aid kits. Once settled in the car, the officers will radio in “10-8” to let dispatch know that they are active and ready for duty.
One of the most common things for patrol officers to do is drive around their areas, making sure everything is going smoothly. They will watch for traffic violations, potential crimes, and issue parking citations. Since cops have to keep records, each traffic stop or parking ticket must be documented. E-citation software helps officers to write things more quickly, but if the department is still using paper, it may take longer.
While on patrol, dispatch is sending out calls for help to answer 9-1-1 calls. Sometimes this includes enforcing city code, like sound ordinances, but other times it is answering calls for armed robberies or car accidents. Cops must learn about the situation a little more as they drive either from dispatch or from police dispatching software on a mobile phone that gives real time updates to the officer. This information helps officers spend less time at the scene trying to figure out what’s going on, so they can jump right in and get to work.
In cases of emergency medical needs, cops can help with crowd control for the paramedics to do their job. As crowds gather, they must keep people back, talk to witnesses, and call for back up as needed. If the case involves a death, homicide investigators or detectives might be called in while the officer tries to gather other information, including the identity of the deceased.
Other job duties vary. Sometimes officers will sit on the side of the road to watch for speeding drivers or just to bring peace of mind to people. Many times, people will approach a police car if they need help with directions, feel scared, or to alert officers to potential problems. Police provide a presence in neighborhoods with crime to help people feel safe as they walk around. Others are doing community outreach to help with public relations between officers and citizens.
Taking a Break
Officers work long shifts and often stop to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They might even stop for a cup of coffee to stay awake. Even when officers are on a break though, they aren’t totally on a break. They must always be on the look out for robberies and other crimes, or even render aid if needed to someone in distress. Wearing the uniform also makes officers a target too, which means they are always looking over their shoulders for attacks. Thinking tactically is always in the back of an officer’s mind so that they aren’t taken by surprise or put into a vulnerable position. Breaks are often quick and then they get right back to work keeping the community safe.
Many cops joke that the real police work is writing reports. Taking opportunities during the shift to write them in the car or a vacant parking lot while eating can save the officer time at the desk later. An officer might take notes on reports to write later or review their law enforcement software notes to manage their reports.
It’s a tiring job and long hours, but it most police officers find it all fulfilling. Most officers have a strong desire to help the community and keep others safe. Leaving their shift long after it was actually done, they head home, grateful they stayed safe that day.
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