Crank (2004) defines a profession as a line of work that requires specialized study and considerable training. A professional, on the other hand, is a person who adheres to high standards of ethics, and is accepted by the public as having special skills, and knowledge from recognized institutions, and is ready to exercise this skills and knowledge for the interest of others (Ferdico et al., 2009). A peace officer is a professional specifically trained to keep peace in their areas of jurisdiction. A peace officer is also called a law enforcement officer and is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that there is peace; protect the properties and lives of others, and to serve the community (Harrell, 2011). They include police officers, parole officers, correctional officers and sheriffs. This paper discusses the training, requirements and responsibilities of a peace officer.
Peace officers are always stereotyped, that is, people make assumptions and generalizations about their characteristics depending on the work they do (Harrell, 2011). They are labeled with different names like arrogant, insensitive, elitist control freaks, and aggressive. Female police officers are always stereotyped; they get longer stares than normal by many people. The peace officers sub-culture is depicted as malign, pervasive and potent influence on the officers’ behavior (Crank, 2004). According to Crank (2004), the police subculture’s core values are: loyalty to one another, only a police is able to understand another police, the public does not support the police, the police are the true crime fighters, they can defeat crime by bending some rules, and detective work is glamorous. The police can use media imagery for investigative purposes of a serious and difficult murder case (Ferdico et al., 2009). The media offers more information and can reach many people and lessens the investigation task.
Peace officers act in discretion when making legal arrest (Harrell, 2011). This means that they have the power and right to act according to their judgment. Everyday police officers are faced with different situations that they have to handle on their own. For instance, when they catch a traffic offender, they have to decide whether to give a ticket, make an arrest or stop the offender. Discretion can be placed into three main categories: when to use legal sanction, how to distribute officers’ time on the duty roster, and when to make non-sanction service like community policing (Harrell, 2011). All these need to be agreed upon depending on the police officers’ judgment. The decisions they make should be based on fairness and reason, and they should be for the benefit of the people they serve.
The police officer can only use coercive power after negotiating and talking have deemed ineffective (Ferdico et al., 2009). They should never use unnecessary violence or force, and must never intentionally cause suffering. A peace officer should uphold high standards of integrity thus should never be corrupt or accept bribery (LeQuang, 2005). They should refuse favors and gifts from people who need special treatment. The due process of law guarantees that the police officers should give one a notice of all legal proceedings, and judge them fairly before their property, life or liberty is taken away.
There are three styles of police organization, namely watchman style, legalistic style, and service style. Watchman style emphasizes maintenance of order, and can easily ignore minor violation as long as there is order (LeQuang, 2005). There are chances of discrimination as some group members are treated better than others. Legalistic style emphasizes professionalism and law enforcement, and is found in cities that favor reforms. Officers are expected to offer impartial arrest to all suspects and they reduce discretion to a minimum (Ferdico et al., 2009). Service style offers community service above the law enforcement (Harrell, 2011). They are encouraged to send criminals to social service agencies instead of arresting them.
For one to become a peace officer, he or she must be of good character, strong and healthy (LeQuang, 2005). An individual's age should be above twenty one years, American citizens, and have no history of drug abuse. One must be at least a high school graduate, pass a written test and have some working experience. For special, local and state police one must have some college training (LeQuang, 2005). Those who do not have college degrees are encouraged to take the course while in police work.