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Police Operations: Development & Functions Video

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  • 0:00 Police Operations
  • 0:45 Patrol Operations
  • 2:14 Investigation Operations
  • 2:58 Special Operations
  • 3:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

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

What exactly goes into being a police officer? In this lesson, we are going to explore the general categories of police operations and discover what that means for law enforcement.

Police Operations

This is a police officer. Hello, officer. Let's watch and see what it takes to be a police officer. Go for it. We'll wait. (Officer first shows us his badge). Well, I think being a police officer is a bit more than just having a badge, although yeah, that's pretty cool.

You see, understanding what it means to be an officer means understanding the complete set of responsibilities, duties and practices of police work, which we can just call police operations. Police work contains a great number of duties and responsibilities, but we can start by breaking down daily operations into a few major categories. Let's take a glance at them.

Patrol Operations

The first category is patrol policing, which is the enforcement of law by officers directly working in and moving around a community. When you think of a police officer, this is probably who you're picturing. Police patrols have changed a lot since they were first really established in the 19th century, but their duties can be summarized in four ways.

First is crime prevention, stopping crime before it occurs. This can happen through various acts of deterrence, the most basic simply being maintaining a police presence. Having police patrolling neighborhoods reduces the opportunities for crime to occur and deters criminals.

Patrol officers are also in charge of law enforcement, or stopping people who are breaking laws. This is why officers have the legal authority to arrest and detain.

Besides that, patrol operations also include maintaining order, which can include security and public safety, and social services, or community welfare. A lot of people don't think of that last one as a major police duty, but since the 1980s, this has been a major priority and one of the ways that the idea of policing has developed over time. While before, police tried to seem separate from the community, now the goal is to be much more a part of it, in terms of protecting people and establishing a friendly and comforting presence.

Investigation Operations

Now, patrol officers deter crime and apprehend suspects for committing a crime, but many crimes are committed when no one is around to see it happen. That's why another major operational duty of police is investigation of crime scenes and criminals. Basically, this means identifying a crime scene, recovering clues, and locating a perpetrator. This requires a different set of skills, including forensic analysis and creating psychological profiles of potential suspects. Police involved in investigative work often deal very closely with prosecutors to ensure that all of the evidence needed to secure a conviction is found and properly handled.

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