All American Hero - Policeman

Due to the unpredictable nature of law enforcement, police officers have the potential to encounter many dangerous situations in the course of their career. Dangers faced by officers include death, increased risk of infectious diseases, increased risk of physical injury, and the potential for emotional disorder due to both the high stress and inherently adversarial nature of police work. These dangers are encountered in many different situations e.g. the investigation, pursuit, and apprehension of criminals, motor vehicle stops, crimes, response to terrorism, intervention in domestic disputes, investigating traffic accidents, and directing traffic. The constant risk, uncertainty and tension inherent in law enforcement and the exposure to vast amounts of human suffering and violence can lead susceptible individuals to anxiety, depression, and alcoholism.

Individuals are drawn to police work for many reasons. Among these often include a desire to protect the public and social order from criminals and danger; a desire to hold a position of respect and authority; a disdain for or antipathy towards criminals and rule breakers; the professional challenges of the work; the employment benefits that are provided with civil service jobs in many countries; the sense of camaraderie that often holds among police; or a family tradition of police work or civil service. An important task of the recruitment activity of police agencies in many countries is screening potential candidates to determine the fitness of their character and personality for the work, often through background investigations and consultation with a psychologist. Even though police work is very dangerous, police officers are still needed by everyone to "protect and serve". As a result, police officers are generally held in high regard by the population they serve. This can vary from country to country however, depending on past experiences with the police or general national perception.

In most countries, candidates for the police force must have completed some formal education. Increasing numbers of people are joining the police force who possess tertiary education and in response to this many police forces have developed a "fast-track" scheme whereby those with university degrees spend 2-3 years as a police constable before receiving promotion to higher ranks, such as sergeants, inspectors etc. (Officers who work within investigative divisions or plainclothes are not necessarily a higher rank but merely do a slightly different job.) Police officers are also recruited from those with experience in the military or security services. Most law enforcement agencies now have measurable physical fitness requirements for officers. In the United States state laws may codify state-wide qualification standards regarding age, education, criminal record, and training but in other places requirements are set by local police agencies.

Police agencies are usually semi-military in organization, so that with specified experience or training qualifications officers become eligible for promotion to a higher supervisory rank, such as sergeant. Promotion is not automatic and usually requires the candidate to pass some kind of examination, interview board or other selection procedure. Although promotion normally includes an increase in salary, it also brings with it an increase in responsibility and for most, an increase in administrative paperwork. Unlike military service, it is not unusual for police officers to remain or choose to remain at lower levels, never getting promoted. There is no stigma attached to this - experienced line patrol officers are highly regarded.

After completing a certain period of service, officers may also apply for specialist positions, such as detective, police dog handler, mounted police officer, motorcycle officer, water police officer, or firearms officer (in forces which are not routinely armed).

In some countries such as in Singapore, police ranks may also be beefed up through conscription, similar to national service in the military. Qualifications may thus be relaxed or enhanced depending on the target mix of conscripts. In Singapore, for example, conscripts face tougher physical requirements in areas such as eyesight, but are less stringent with minimum academic qualification requirements. Some police officers also join as volunteers, who again may do so via differing qualification requirements.


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