This question is difficult to answer, because police officers work for all different types and sizes of departments. For example, there are college police officers who might be working traffic control during peak times, but on foot patrol at other times. There are departments where there is a lot of criminal activity, and those where almost nothing happens. So, speaking in generalities, here are some of the things you might encounter.
1. Making sure you are prepared to go on duty: Equipment you carry on your person, including notebook, pen, digital devices, body camera, and, your vehicle - inspecting the vehicle, its emergency lights and sirens, the dashboard camera, on-board computer system, first aid equipment, flares, fire extinguisher, etc. Being prepared is very important!
2. Taking reports: sometimes people are just reporting that something happened, but there are no suspects, so you just take the report and reassure them that it will be investigated.
3. Community policing: stopping at the various businesses and visiting with the shopkeepers. Talking to the youth. Community policing helps build trust, and encourages people to call the police when they have problems.
4. Traffic enforcement: writing tickets. Some departments really push this, some, not so much.
5. Investigating traffic accidents.
6. Proactive policing. patrolling your area, looking for things that are out of place, such as a garage door that isn't normally open, etc. Catching criminals "in the act" isn't always easy to do!
7. Dealing with suspects. Interview and interrogation. Interview witnesses. Making arrests, taking prisoners to jail.
8. Dealing with mentally ill people. This is challenging, but, the ability to be patient and talk calmly is very important.
9. Running errands/special assignments: Pick up a witness at the airport, for example. Any of a number of other things.
10. Talking with your fellow officers. It's important to have a strong sense of "team" amongst the people you are working with! you rely on each other!
Again, some departments are very busy. Some aren't. I worked at an airport that was, truthfully, pretty boring. But, it was safe because we were highly visible in our patrolling efforts. In the 25 years I was there, we had one stabbing, two robberies, and one accidental discharge of a firearm. Lots of other stuff, including public intoxication, child custody disputes, narcotics trafficking, and general disturbances. We also "recovered" a lot of stolen vehicles, which had been parked and abandoned in our parking lots. And assisted on the flight line with aircraft emergencies.
If you are considering going into law enforcement, please spend some time looking at the requirements of the various departments on their websites!
A big city shift would typically be:
* Get your gear ready and loaded out into your patrol car.
* Get roll call information with your squad and supervisor
* Typically head out to a holding 911 call from the previous shift (the "hot" calls (robbery, shooting, etc.) are already dispatched to officers held over from the previous shift). Your holding call will typically be something that could wait a bit, like a burglary or a car break-in or auto theft.
* Go write up your report and get coffee or stack up your report and go to another holding call if there is a backlog...then go back to station or coffee to write up all of the paperwork.
* Repeat until lunch or a lull.
* If you're all caught up, then proactive activity (traffic stops, suspicious person contacts, community visits).
Here's the kicker: Any of these shifts can be totally waylaid by anything out of the ordinary: Prisoner transport, riot, murder crime scene. You could totally spend an entire shift standing in an intersection for a crime scene or barricaded subject. You could spend your whole shift sitting outside of a hospital room guarding a patient. You could spend half of your shift being interviewed for a complaint against you. There is no "routine" shift in police work. In one shift as a patrol officer, I spent the entire shift on the phone tracking down a kidnapper in another state and then coordinating the return of the kid with the other state after the arrest. Another shift I was tasked to drive 100 miles to go pick up a prisoner and then got stuck with him on the freeway behind a multi-fatality wreck, trying to figure out how to get him more water, some food, and how to facilitate him not defecating in my car. One shift in a winter storm, I went the entire shift without hearing a 911 call and no one was out. No wrecks, no people out, no calls. I tried to stay warm the entire shift (of course, this is rare) and not crash on the ice.
On top of all this, in a big department, you can move around and the new job can be as if it were a totally different career (internet investigations, harbor patrol, forensics, etc.)
- Make sure equipment like flashlights or radio batteries are charged.
- Function test Taser, lights, and make sure the radio works.
- Attend watch briefing from sergeant to get beat (area) assignment, hear about the events of the last shift(s), receive any special assignments.
- Check out assigned vehicle for any damage or contraband that may have been left behind.
- Load equipment bag, rifle, and AED (make sure it works too).
- Login to vehicle computer and start patrolling.
- Respond to calls, conduct traffic stops, and help out "beat partners" if they get assigned to cases.
Days vary but this is a typical morning shift 6 AM to 3 PM.
Gershom recommends the following next steps: