Line & Staff Employees in the Police Department

Line & Staff Employees in the Police Department
Coming up next: The History of Women & Minorities in the Police Profession

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Police Organization
  • 1:02 Line Employees
  • 1:50 Staff Employees
  • 3:02 Staff/Line Conflicts
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up


Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Police departments are generally heavily staffed, but not all of these employees have the same role. Explore the difference between line and staff employees, and test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Police Organization

This is a police station. It's got police officers, detectives, a couple of trained dogs, and all of these other people. See how busy everyone is? That means they're all important. But what do they all do? Small police stations can generally get by with a few officers, but once the department gets large enough, you need to hire more people to take care of specific tasks. This means that you need to keep everybody organized, so that they are doing their jobs and only their jobs. One of the most common forms of organization within police departments is the line and staff system, in which duties are divided amongst those with general skills and those designated to support them. The line employees are those directly in charge of fulfilling the goals of the police department, and the staff provide specialized support. Here, let's take a stroll through this police department and see how this works.

Line Employees

Alright, let's start with our line employees, those people directly in charge of fulfilling the goals and tasks of the police station. What are the primary goals of a police department? To protect and serve, right? This means preventing and investigating crime to create a safer community.

The divisions of the police department who directly work to fulfill these goals are the line employees, who include patrol officers, detectives, and high-ranking police administrators, like the chief and deputy. We call these the line employees because there is a direct line of power; there is an established and clear chain of command. Junior officers report to senior officers, who report to the chief of police. You get the picture.

Staff Employees

In order for the line employees to do their jobs well, it's helpful if they don't have to worry about other issues, like many of the administrative duties of the police station. That's why we have staff employees, support units that are in charge of specialized needs. They have authority only over their specific field of focus, but within that field, they do have almost absolute authority.

Common departments of staff employees in the police station could include human resources, in charge of dealing with officer well-being and compensation; recruitment, in charge of finding and hiring new officers; and financial, in charge of station budgets and expenses. That's a brief list, and different stations will have different support staff depending on their needs.

Some stations have entire staff departments to handle processing and cataloging evidence. Some have staff departments focused on providing psychological counseling to officers to deal with the stresses of the job. Some have staff departments focused on maintaining police vehicles. It all depends on the needs of that station.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account