McGraw-Hill Education Police Officer Exams, Second Edition
There is always a need for highly trained and highly skilled law enforcement agents. Today too, all policing agencies are finding that rapidly changing technology not only provides law enforcement with new ways to investigate crime, but also provides criminals with new tools to commit crimes. As a result, law enforcement agencies are constantly seeking to hire and train new policing candidates who are able to work well with the public, maintain high ethical standards, work independently, use common sense, and act as a positive role model for the community. Today’s police officer also needs to have well-developed communication skills. Communication skills are important because police officers are expected to communicate in one-on-one situations with citizens from all walks of life, especially in conflict resolution and mediation situations.
To evaluate each candidate’s potential for civilian law enforcement, agencies have developed an assortment of written, psychological, and physical tests. It is very possible, even encouraged, to prepare for the written portion of these tests. Once candidates are aware of the ability areas that the tests attempt to evaluate and the testing methods agencies typically use, they can begin to sharpen and improve the necessary skills.
If you are interested in a law enforcement career, you should begin by educating yourself on the various law enforcement agencies with which you may wish to seek employment. Factors such as the size of the agency, the area of the country, and the population density may all be important issues when you are determining what agency or agencies to apply to.
After choosing an agency or agencies, the second step is to prepare for the compulsory tests that every law enforcement agency uses to evaluate candidates. Candidates for police positions are expected to communicate well both verbally and in writing. These candidates are also expected to demonstrate an ability to perform basic mathematical processes, read and understand legal information, and reason through large amounts of seemingly unrelated information to find clues or connections. While the process of preparing for written law enforcement exams is not easy, it will seem well worth the effort when you are notified that you have been selected for an important and exciting career as a police officer.
OVERVIEW OF POLICE DEPARTMENTS
Policing in the United States (U.S.) is divided into four broad categories: federal, state, county, and municipal agencies. There is no real hierarchy between these categories. Each branch of law enforcement has been created to enforce a specific set of laws within a specific geographical area. This means that the key to understanding which law enforcement agency has the authority to respond to a crime is two-fold. First, one must determine which governmental unit prohibited the act. For example, homicide is an act that is prohibited at the state level. So, as a general rule, only law enforcement agencies with authority (jurisdiction) to enforce state laws may investigate the crime of murder. Second, one must look at the place (venue) where the criminal act occurred. If the murder occurred in Alabama, the Alabama authorities would be responsible for investigating the crime. Thus, if you are primarily interested in becoming a homicide detective, you would most likely be interested in applying to a state or local policing agency rather than to federal law enforcement agencies.
The following overview of law enforcement agencies is intended to provide a brief understanding of the various categories of police departments in the United States. Use this list as a starting place for determining which type of law enforcement agency seems the most interesting to you. Then, contact that agency directly to seek information concerning the application process. Much of this information may also be available on the Internet. A list of many state agency Web site addresses is included in the materials of this book. In addition, federal and local agencies are also likely to have information available on the Internet. To find a local agency, look up the city’s Web site and you will usually find a link to the police department.
Public expectations for police officers often seem immense. The public expects the police to prevent crime and make arrests. In addition, the police are expected to perform numerous other duties: including operating detention facilities, search and rescue operations, business licensing, supervising elections, staffing courts, and chauffeuring officials. Since the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C., the police have also been given the responsibility of monitoring for signs of possible terrorism at the municipal level.
Still, most police departments, regardless of their size, provide the same types of services to their communities. Although modern television dramas have created the impression that police officers race from one murder scene and arrest, to the next, police officers do much more. They investigate crime, enforce traffic regulation, maintain social order, provide emergency services, rescue animals and vulnerable people, patrol to deter crime, and work to keep the peace. They may also report potholes in the roads, malfunctioning streetlights, or children that appear in need of social service intervention. In short, police do whatever is necessary to allow people to continue living and working together in a safe and healthy environment.
A brief review of the specific responsibilities of the different levels of police agencies follows.
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