Police Officers and Detectives enforce the law and protect and serve the community in a variety of ways, including preventing crime through education and physical presence, collecting evidence and apprehending law breakers, testifying in court, monitoring and directing traffic, giving out parking and traffic tickets, and responding to calls for service. Police officers and detectives spend considerable time writing reports, and maintaining records. Most police officers wear uniforms, but detectives may wear plain clothes. Although detectives may be part of a police force, detectives may have different duties than a police officer and often specialize in a specific area such as investigative work. Police officers and detectives may work with an assigned partner, or they may work with dogs that are specially trained to sniff out drugs or cadavers. Police officers and detectives are highly mobile, working on foot or riding cars, bikes, motorcycles, boats, and horses. A police officer or detective can expect to work at least a full 40 hour week, but also need to be available outside the normal work week and are usually paid for the extra hours.
The education requirements to join the Police Academy vary widely by state and municipality. Most require that you have a high school diploma and a college degree. 90% of police departments require that applicants must have an adequate education and graduate from that department's training program. Applications must also be US Citizens and be 21 years of age. Many of these programs have rigourous physical components, so it will pay to be in good shape before applying.
A high school diploma is sometimes the only education requirement, but a college degree or higher is often required, and applicants with college training in a field such as criminal justice, or who have military experience have a better chance of finding a job. Knowledge of a foreign language is also an asset. Often agencies may provide tuition reimbursement and then pay higher salaries to those who earn a degree towards fields such as criminal justice. Regardless of education, most police officers and detectives usually have extensive training in a police academy. This training includes instruction on local and state laws, firearm training, first aid, and self-defense. After training, police officers and detectives must pass rigorous physical qualifications that test attributes such as strength and agility. Police officers and detectives must also have a clean background and pass psychiatrist or psychologist interviews.
Wages vary greatly by specialty, location, and agency, but the average yearly wage is $52,810. Total earnings frequently exceed this mark due to overtime payments.
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