Criminal Justice: Do You Have What It Takes? Part 2

Spotlight: Police Officer or Detective

Important Qualities

Ability to multi-task. Job tasks can vary from day to day. But multiple tasks and extensive paperwork must be completed on time.

Communication skills. Police and detectives must be able to speak with people when gathering facts about a crime and to then express details about a given incident in writing.

Empathetic personality. Police officers need to understand the perspectives of a wide variety of people in their jurisdiction and have a willingness to help the public.

Good judgment. Police and detectives must be able to determine the best way to solve a wide array of problems quickly.

Leadership skills. Police officers must be comfortable with being a highly visible member of their community, as the public looks to them for assistance in emergency situations.

Perceptiveness. Officers must be able to anticipate another person’s reactions and understand why people act a certain way.

Strength and stamina. Officers and detectives must be in good physical shape both to pass required tests for entry into the field and to keep up with the daily rigors of the job.1

Typical Duties

Uniformed police officers typically do the following:

  • Enforce laws
  • Respond to calls for service
  • Patrol assigned areas
  • Conduct traffic stops and issue citations
  • Arrest suspects
  • Write detailed reports and fill out forms
  • Prepare cases and testify in court2

Detectives and criminal investigators typically do the following:

  • Investigate crimes
  • Collect evidence of crimes
  • Conduct interviews with suspects and witnesses
  • Observe the activities of suspects
  • Arrest suspects
  • Write detailed reports and fill out forms
  • Prepare cases and testify in court3 

Education Required 

Police and detective applicants, at the bare minimum, must have a high school education or GED and be a graduate of their agency’s training academy. More and more applicants for entry-level police jobs have taken some college classes, including those found at online colleges and universities .

Detectives normally begin their career as police officers before being promoted to detective – and often need at least a bachelor’s degree.

Although similar to state and local requirements, the requirements for federal law enforcement agencies, such as with the FBI or Secret Service, are generally stricter. Federal agencies require a bachelor’s degree, related work experience , or a combination of the two. For example, FBI special agent applicants typically must be college graduates with at least 3 years of professional work experience.4

Spotlight: Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Important Qualities 

Communication skills. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must be able to effectively interact and communicate with a wide range of people.

Critical-thinking skills. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must be able to assess the needs of individual offenders before determining the best resources for helping them.

Decision-making skills. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must consider the relative costs and benefits of potential actions and be able to choose appropriately.

Emotional stability. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must cope with hostile or otherwise upsetting situations, as well as with other stresses on the job.

Organizational skills. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must be able to manage multiple case files at one time.

Writing skills. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists interpret training materials and write detailed reports on a regular basis.5

Typical Duties 

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists typically do the following:

  • Evaluate offenders to determine the best course of treatment
  • Provide offenders with resources to aid in rehabilitation
  • Discuss treatment options with offenders
  • Arrange treatment programs
  • Supervise offenders and monitor their progress
  • Conduct meetings with offenders as well as their family and friends
  • Write reports on the progress of offenders6

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, How to Become a Police Officer or Detective, 2012, p.1.
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Protective-Service/Police-and-detectives.htm#tab-4

2 IBID

3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, What Police and Detectives Do, 2012, p.1.
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Protective-Service/Police-and-detectives.htm#tab-2

4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, How to Become a Police Officer or Detective, 2012, p.1.
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Protective-Service/Police-and-detectives.htm#tab-4

5 Bureau of Labor Statistics, How to Become a Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist, 2012, p.1.
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm#tab-4

6 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists, 2012, p.1.
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm#tab-2