Police officers work to protect the public and uphold the law. This is not an easy job. In the first few years, police officers are typically assigned general duty in patrol divisions. General duty policing involves patrolling assigned areas to enforce laws, protect public safety, and arrest criminal suspects.
Police work can involve some or all of the following: Investigate accidents and crime scenes; secure evidence and interview witnesses; testify in court; collect notes and reports; provide emergency assistance to victims of natural disasters, crime, and accidents; engage in crime prevention, safety, and public information programs; participate in media relations; and supervise and manage the work of other police officers.
After a few years of service (usually four or more), police officers can move into areas such as: criminal identification, drug investigations, sexual assault, fraud, major case and/or crime management, surveillance, aircraft security, explosives disposal, police dog services, and other specialized sectors.
Police officers must be available for shift work at any time of day and any day of the week, including holidays. Shifts tend to be longer than the standard eight-hour office day. Even though many regular police duties are routine in nature, the job can also be dangerous, as well as physically and emotionally stressful, as our alumna Alejandra Perez (2011) explains.
What is your job?
I am a NYPD officer.
What is the broader field of industry in which this work exists?
What, in general, do you do as part of this job?
Fight crime…. well on occasion, once in a while. Usually it involves being very tired after working a 24 hour tour straight with no sleep and getting yelled at by anyone and everyone, including supervisors and civilians. Oh, and helping old women cross the street… we do that some times.
What are the pros and cons of this kind of job?
LOL. We can start with the CONS: Long hours. Horrible days off, if you get any days off actually. No regular life schedule. Everyone knows what we do, what we should do, what we didn’t do and what we will do. This is a job where everyone is a critic, has advice to give, or knowledge to share and very few know what the job actually consists of or requires you to do. There are days that you feel like the world is against you when all you’re trying to do is help and it can get truly frustrating.
Now for the PROS: for every bad day, for every bad person we encounter, there are 10 times as many good days and good people. When you actually help someone, even if they don’t say “thank you” or appreciate it, you know you did the right thing and that’s satisfying. Even with the heaviness and seriousness of the job, I haven’t had a day where I didn’t laugh. Even the bad days are filled with jokes, laughter, and support. The family I found with my brothers and sisters in blue is something I would never change for the world. I have met some truly amazing individuals who I’m happy to have in my life. And the best part is, I know these people would literally put their lives on the line at any given moment to protect my life because it’s simply what we do. What else could you ask for out of a friendship?
What skills did you learn as an English major that you use in this job?
Report writing, narratives, basic spelling. We’re not asked to write novels in our reports but a well-written, coherent report makes the entire process so much smoother. I’m sure the supervisors and ADAs appreciate it as well. Also, the vocabulary acquired through the major helps when you have to articulate something or testify at court or anywhere. If you can adequately express yourself, it goes a long way.
How have you learned to do this job?
I went through 6 months in the police academy learning the basics. Then once I graduated, it was out to the streets of the Bronx, with the phone number of a Sargeant and a training officer.
How did you get this job?
I took a civil service exam and waited 3 years to get called.
For current students interested in this line of work, do you have any recommendations on what they can do now to start directing their career path?
Taking the test is the first step. If this is the career path you choose, just be ready to question your choice every other day. At the end of the day, this is a career that requires strength of character and a lot of heart. But if it is what you truly want, you will wake up happy with your choice and career. You will feel proud of yourself and the new family you joined, despite all the “sucky” parts that come along with it.