They enforce laws and maintain order. They investigate crimes and patrol neighborhoods to keep them safe. When there is an accident on the highway, they offer assistance and take charge of the situation. If you get lost, they’ll give you directions. These are just some of the jobs police officers do every day.
Police work can be difficult and dangerous. But thanks to police officers, everyone lives more safely.
WHO ARE THE POLICE?
Policemen and policewomen are public servants. That means they are part of the government. In some towns, police chiefs are elected by local residents. In most big cities, the mayor appoints the police chief.
Every police officer is part of a police force. Different police forces are responsible for patrolling and protecting different areas. There are police forces in every country of the world.
In the United States, there are city, county, state, and national police forces. City police enforce laws within towns and cities. County forces patrol the areas outside of cities but within county lines. State police enforce state laws. National police, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), enforce national laws and investigate crimes that cross state lines.
WHAT DO THE POLICE DO?
Police perform many different jobs. Every day, police officers patrol streets to prevent crime and keep people safe. These police are called patrol officers. Patrol officers wear police uniforms and drive police cars. They might ride motorcycles, bicycles, horses, or patrol on foot. Patrol officers may arrest a person they see committing a crime.
Police teach people how to help prevent crime and to protect themselves. They rush to help people in emergencies, such as car accidents, flooding, and hurricanes. Police help find missing people and settle arguments between people. They watch for speeding drivers on the road and give traffic tickets.
Specially trained police investigate crimes that have already happened, such as robbery, kidnapping, or murder. These police are called detectives. Detectives look for fingerprints or other evidence at a crime scene. They ask a lot of questions as they gather information to try to solve a crime. Detectives usually wear plain clothes-that is, ordinary clothing instead of a uniform. That way, they can blend in while investigating crimes.
WHAT EQUIPMENT DO POLICE USE?
Police use radios, telephones, and walkie-talkies to keep in touch. Many police cars have computers inside them. If a police officer stops a car, the officer can check who the car belongs to by typing the license plate number into the computer. Computers help police across the country share information about criminals.
Most police officers carry a gun. They identify themselves by wearing or carrying police badges. Police might carry shields or wear helmets or bullet proof vests, depending on the dangers they face.
Some police departments use police dogs. Police dogs sniff out illegal drugs or bombs or they help find missing people.
Big cities usually have crime labs. Here, police scientists use special technology to help solve crimes. They examine weapons used in crimes for fingerprints. They analyze evidence, such as blood, hair samples, or clothing fibers from a crime scene. Their job is to use evidence to help find out who committed the crime.
POLICE ON TV
If you ever watch television or go to the movies, you’ve probably seen the police in action. Many TV shows and movies portray the work of patrol officers, detectives, or crime labs. Some, like Hill Street Blues or NYPD Blue, present realistic portraits of police forces at work. Others, like C.S.I., give you a glimpse inside the workings of a crime lab.