Role of Police in Democratic Societies

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  • 0:00 Police
  • 0:51 Responsibilities
  • 2:40 POP
  • 4:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

The police work to keep everyone safe and keep order in society through law enforcement agencies that work to prevent crime and apprehend offenders. In this lesson, we'll look at the four major responsibilities of the police and problem-oriented policing.


Ever since he was a little boy, Charlie has wanted to be a police officer. The uniform, the shiny badge, the car with lights and sirens... all of these things excite Charlie and make him want to be part of his local police force. But Charlie isn't really sure what being a police officer entails. What, exactly, do they do?

Police officers are part of law enforcement, or the group of people tasked with the prevention of crime and apprehension of offenders. In other words, law enforcement officials, including police officers, investigate and prevent crimes from happening.

Let's explore how they carry out their duties, including the four basic responsibilities of police officers and one specific type of law enforcement, problem-oriented policing.


Charlie really wants to be a police officer, but he's not sure what his duties would be if he joined the force. Is it just running around after criminals all day? Well, not exactly. There are four general responsibilities of police officers. They are:

1. Enforcing laws - Investigating crimes and apprehending offenders is a part of a police officer's work. In fact, when people think about the police, that's generally what they think of. When Charlie imagines being a police officer, he is thinking about running around after criminals, which is part of enforcing laws.

2. Preventing crime - Responding to routine incidents, like fender benders, and going on patrol is another major part of an officer's job. This is about being in the community so that people know that there are police officers around and hopefully will not commit crimes.

3. Responding to emergencies - Last month, when there was a multiple-car pileup in the city where Charlie lives, many police officers showed up to help control crowds and block off the section of the street where the problem was. In this way, police officers respond to emergencies to help out.

4. Providing support services - In addition to all of their other duties, police officers need to provide support services for their town. This could be running training for members of the community, or it could be something like working at a gun buyback program, buying guns to get them off the streets.

Many people think of police as enforcing laws, but the other three are just as important and often form the majority of a police officer's career. If Charlie wants to become a police officer, he should make sure that he'll enjoy all aspects of the job, not just the part where he's putting someone in handcuffs.


As we've seen, police officers do much more than just chase after criminals. In fact, many officers focus on preventing crime instead of just catching offenders.

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