Police detectives are police officers that gather evidence and data for use in criminal investigations. They conduct interviews, look up criminal records, observe the activities of suspects, collect physical evidence, and interview witnesses.
In general, police officers are responsible for maintaining the safety of communities. Police officers who work in small towns and rural communities participate in a variety of activities such as traffic control, burglary investigations, accident response, and crime prevention. In large cities, police officers typically are assigned to a particular district. They may also have more specific assignments such as drug enforcement. Through partnerships with schools and community organizations, police officers are able to take steps to prevent crimes before they are committed.
Police officers are also hired at the state and federal levels. State troopers patrol highways in an effort to enforce motor vehicle laws and regulations. They also provide assistance at the scene of an accident. Federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), U.S. Border Patrol, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) hire special agents to perform a variety of functions at the national level.
Education and Training
In the U.S., police detectives may need the following education and training:
- a high school diploma (federal positions often require a college degree)
- candidates may be required to pass a civil service or other examination
On the Job
Police officers typically work one of three shifts: days, evenings, or nights. All these shifts generally include weekends and holidays. Police officers generally are paid overtime for extra shifts, court appearances and additional responsibilities. When not working, police officers are often on-call for emergency situations.
By the nature of the profession, police work may be hazardous. Officers are expected to respond to situations that may place them in danger. Police officers must be constantly alert and able to quickly determine a course of action that is appropriate. These responsibilities can place police officers under a great deal of stress.
Math on the Job
Police detectives must have excellent observation skills. They also must be extremely detail-oriented in the evidence gathering aspect of their work. Once all the information has been gathered, police detectives use reasoning skills to solve crimes in a logical and conclusive manner.
- correctional officer
- fire marshal
- security guard
You can get more information about a career as a police officer from the
National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO).