Police And Sheriffs Patrol Officers picture    Police And Sheriffs Patrol Officers image

Police Patrol Officers

Police patrol officers perform general law enforcement duties such as responding to calls for service, enforce laws and ordinances, file reports of incidents, control crowds, arrest law breakers and prevent crime. Police patrol officers patrol a particular area in squad cars or on foot. Police officers also spend a lot of time doing paperwork.

Some of the common job titles are patrolman, police officer, patrol officer, public safety officer and law enforcement officer.

Police officers employed in large cities often work as patrol officers assigned to either crime prevention or traffic control. A patrol officer sometimes has to testify in court or act as a witness in criminal and traffic cases.

A number of urban based police departments are involved with community policing - a system where police officers build relationships with people living in local neighborhoods and they also ask the public to help fight crime.


  • Provide for public safety by protecting people and property, responding to emergencies, promoting good community relations and enforcing motor vehicle and criminal laws
  • Record facts to prepare reports
  • Direct traffic at accident scenes
  • Investigate suspicious people and situations
  • Investigate burglaries
  • Identify and arrest perpetrators and suspects of criminal acts
  • Provide first aid to accident victims
  • Patrol specific areas
  • Investigate traffic accidents
  • Study facts of various types of incidents to determine if criminal acts or violations of statutes occurred

Job Characteristics

The job can sometimes be dangerous and stressful. Many officers observe death and suffering. Police officers typically work 40 hours a week, however paid overtime is common. Shift work is required since around the clock protection needs to be provided to communities. Junior officers often work nights, weekends and holidays. Police officers must work whenever they are needed.

Patrol officers should enjoy dealing with the public. Personal characteristics such as integrity, honesty, good judgement and a sense of responsibility are important for the occupation.

Employment Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of police officers and detectives will grow 11% from 2006 to 2016 which is about as fast as average for all occupations. Population growth is a significant factor for the increasing demand for police services. The level of government spending is a major factor in determining the number of officers that are employed.

The overall opportunities for employment in local police departments is expected to be excellent for individuals that meet the qualifications. Applicants with college training or military experience will have the best opportunities with local police departments.

Police officers are typically eligible to be promoted after a probation period which ranges from six months to three years. Some police officers are promoted to a detective position. A candidate's position on a promotion list is typically determined by written examination scores and on-the-job performance. Promotion to higher level positions such as corporal, sergeant, lieutenant and captain are typically determined according to a candidate's position on the promotion list.

Education, Certification, and Licensing

Many police departments require candidates to have a high school diploma and an increasing number of police departments seek candidates that have one or two years of college education. Some police departments require a college degree. Applicants typically have to be 21 years of age or older and be U.S. citizens. Eligibility for appointment typically depends on competitive written examinations and previous experience and education.

In numerous communities police patrol officer candidates have to meet minimum requirements for height, weight, hearing and eyesight. Since most police departments have to meet civil service regulations, applicants need to pass a written test that measures their analytical skills. Background checks and physical examinations are also required. Their character traits are typically investigated. Some police departments have candidates interviewed by a psychiatrist or a psychologist or take a personality test.

Typically, new recruits are involved in classroom training at police academies. Upon graduation they receive additional training by experienced police officers for three months to a year. Police departments in small communities may not provide a formal training program.

Police departments usually encourage patrol officer candidates to take courses related to law enforcement subjects. Many universities, colleges and junior colleges provide law enforcement or administrative of justice programs. The ability to speak a foreign language can be very beneficial.


Major Employers

The major employers of police patrol officers are local governments.

Schools for Police And Sheriffs Patrol Officers are listed in the Browse Schools Section.

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Police and Sheriffs Patrol Officers

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Police and Sheriffs Patrol Officers jobs , as of 2016

Metro Area Total Employment Annual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim 29,380 $100,010
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land 16,110 $62,980
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 15,970 $65,860
San Juan-Carolina-Caguas 14,400 $32,110
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach 13,230 $69,350
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell 12,840 $44,670
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward 9,500 $105,540
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale 7,530 $66,070
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn 7,470 $62,770
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson 6,850 $63,900

Compare Total Employment & Salaries for Police Patrol Officers

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to police patrol officers

Source : 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, BLS.gov

Most Popular Industries for
Police and Sheriffs Patrol Officers

These industries represent at least 1% of the total number of people employed in this occupation.

Industry Total Employment Percent Annual Median Salary
Government 618,590 97% $51,630
Education 13,560 2% $43,350
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Police and Sheriffs Patrol Officers.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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