What is a Law Enforcement Officer?
A law enforcement officer's primary responsibility is to protect lives and property. All of their tasks relate back to this one responsibility. There are a wide variety of types of law enforcement officers and organizations. Duties are performed based on the type of officer and organization. In almost all situations, law enforcement officers are expected to fulfill their responsibilities whether on or off duty.
What Tasks Do Law Enforcement Officers Perform?
Law enforcement officers' duties depend on the type of officer and the organization in which they work. Law enforcement officer types include:
- General Law Enforcement Officers: Most law enforcement officers are uniformed personnel. They carry out patrols and answer calls for service or help. They may direct traffic at the scene of a fire, investigate a burglary or give first aid. Urban police agencies are focusing more on community policing. In community policing, an officer builds relationships with the citizens of local neighborhoods and enlists their help in fighting crime.
- Detectives: Detectives, in most cases, do not wear uniforms. They are responsible for investigating criminal cases by gathering facts and collecting evidence. Most detectives specialize in a specific crime type such as narcotics, grand theft or homicide. Detectives are assigned cases. They work on these cases until an arrest and conviction occurs, or the case is dropped.
- Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs: Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs work at a county level. Sheriffs are usually elected to their posts. Their tasks are similar to those of local or county police chiefs. Deputy sheriffs perform a variety of duties. Their tasks include patrol, call response, criminal investigation and administration.
- State Police Officers: State police officers are sometimes referred to as state troopers or highway patrol officers. Their jurisdiction extends throughout the state. Their main responsibility is motor vehicle safety. They enforce traffic laws and regulations and assist at accident scenes. They also investigate traffic accidents and other crimes involving motor vehicles.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agents: FBI agents are the federal government's criminal investigators and are responsible for investigating violations of more than 260 statutes. They often conduct sensitive national security investigations. Some of the crimes they investigate include organized crime, public corruption, fraud against the government, bribery, civil rights violations, bank robbery, air piracy, terrorism and foreign counterintelligence.
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agents: The DEA is the lead agency for domestic drug enforcement, and DEA agents enforce illegal drug laws, as well as coordinate and pursue United States drug investigations abroad. Some DEA agents infiltrate illegal drug organizations using undercover techniques.
- U.S. Marshals and Deputy Marshals: The U.S. Marshals Service is the oldest law enforcement agency in the nation. They conduct a wide variety of duties, including judicial security, fugitive investigations, witness security, prisoner services, prisoner and alien transportation, asset forfeitures, service of court process and other special operations and programs.