Police: Essential Assets to Our Community
The concept of modern policing began in the 19th century, when citizens individually rose to address the need for regulation, tax collection, and social services in their own communities. These volunteers assembled into what we recognize today as “patrol units,” and in 1838, the first centralized municipal police department was created in the city of Boston. Other cities quickly followed suit, including New York City, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Chicago. By the late 1800s, almost every major U.S. city had created some iteration of formal police force.
Today, there are more than 18,000 local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies that employ more than 420,000 officers. Nationwide, the rate of sworn officers is approximately 2.4 police officers per 1,000 inhabitants. [Please note: the latest update is from 2018. This number is likely lower today.]
While many people are familiar with the duties of law enforcement, there may be outstanding questions regarding what functions, exactly, police officers are obligated to serve and what contributions they make to our communities.
Police Officer Duties
- Serve and protect. The primary duty of police officers is to protect people and property. According to the FBI’s most recent calculations, police conducted 10,085,207 arrests in 2019. Of these arrests, 495,871 were for violent crimes, and 1,074,367 were for property crimes.
- Enforce the law. Preserving the integrity of the law is a tall order, and one that can be even taller depending on geography. Location will greatly impact the types and frequency of crime. Police are tasked with not only striving to prevent crime, but to maintain law and order once a crime has taken place. At the end of the day, police are peacekeepers.
- Investigate criminal activity. Police officers are diligent in their pursuit of ensuring justice for victims of crime. On average, there are a staggering 8.25 million criminal offenses each year. While patrol officers are generally the first to respond to a crime scene, investigators—who are also sworn personnel and who started out as patrol cops—will collect evidence, conduct interviews, and more.
- Act with integrity. Sworn personnel must abide by a strict code of conduct that calls for honesty, integrity, and accountability on and off-duty. Police are also occasionally called upon to testify in court regarding a person or situation they responded to, where of course, honesty is always the best policy.
- Provide essential information. When assisting victims, police have a duty to be caring, compassionate, and responsive by not only taking the report seriously and pursuing the offender, but by explaining essential information and available victim services. The Department of Justice is a great resource for victims, and has information on programs such as victim assistance and victim compensation.
- Better our communities. Police officers are critical assets to our communities. By working around the clock to deter and investigate crime, our neighborhoods are safer and quality of life is better for all law abiding citizens. Community-oriented policing is a program with officers embedded in the community to encourage interactive partnerships between law enforcement agencies, their officers, and the people they serve. By developing connections within the community, police are better informed and empowered to solve public safety problems.
A Higher Calling
Policing began with volunteers who wanted to make a positive impact in their community. Those roots hold true today. Law enforcement is a nationwide family of mission-driven individuals who are passionate about protecting the innocent people in their communities and upholding the law. In fact, many police officers are residents of the communities they serve.
Every day, police men and women leave their homes with no promise that they will ever return. They kiss their kids goodbye, knowing that each time could be the last time. They make these hard choices to answer a higher calling, to serve and protect, simply because they love their communities and they want to contribute to a better future for all.
And sometimes, they leave it all on the line.
Band of Blue is a non-profit organization that seeks to serve those who serve us. We honor our fallen comrades by helping their families move forward after tragedy strikes. If you know of a family who has recently lost a loved one in the line of duty, please reach out to us.
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