Being a cop is notoriously dangerous. However, many police officers actually engage in a number of daily activities that are not very risky, including basic patrol and traffic ticketing. The job does also entail crime investigations and arrests, though. The average annual salary for police officers was $57,770 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. An officer typically needs at least a high school diploma and to pass the training academy, though agencies sometimes require some college credits.
Serving the Public
To understand the benefits of an occupation, it is often best to look at the common reasons people choose it. Cops often attend the police academy and join the force because of a desire to serve the public or to get involved in something greater than themselves. Every time a police officer helps arrest a criminal or deters criminal activity, he serves the public. Many officers also get involved in drug prevention education in schools and the community. Police officers can also provide emergency response services after accidents or when people get hurt in their homes.
While officers may patrol the same beat, each day presents different challenges and opportunities to serve. The challenges are both physical and mental. Some police officers attend the academy after spending years in an office cubicle or similarly tranquil setting in search of a job that presents more regular mental stimuli and forces them to stay alert throughout the day. Different crimes and investigations take police in varied directions as well.
The dangers of police work are certainly a negative aspect of the occupation. Cops in large cities often have to confront violent criminals or conduct investigations of severe criminal activity. Even in small towns, officers likely find themselves in at least a handful of life-threatening scenarios during their careers. High stress and fast chases can also pose threats to the police officer. The BLS reported that officers have one of the highest rates of on-the-job injuries. A December 2012 NBCNews.com article reported 127 federal, state and local cops had died on-duty with four days left in the year. Traffic-related deaths and firearms were the leading causes.
The demands of police work can also place a significant burden on family life. Spouses and family members often have concerns about the dangers of the job and may put pressure on the cop to quit. Stressful days and especially dangerous situations can carry over to home as well. Functionally, new police officers usually have to work nights, weekends and holidays. Overtime is also typical in under-staffed agencies. These scheduling demands and irregularities can also put pressure on officers to maintain work-life balance.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012: Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers
- The Art of Manliness: So You Want My Job: Police Officer
- Greenville Police Department: Becoming A Greenville Police Officer
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Police and Detectives
- NBCNews.com: Police Deaths Down 23 Percent This Year Across US
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