What is the most important role of a police officer?

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Ryan Wellman eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The most important role of a police officer is to enforce the law. This includes the protection of people and property. The police officer is responsible for patrolling his or her jurisdiction and identifying situations where the law is broken. Effective police officers are proactive in their patrols. Their role is set clear by the laws that are already in place. How the officer enforces the law is also very clear. He or she will identify the perpetrator and Mirandize him or her. Although the role of the police officer is proactive, it is not that of the instigator. The police officer's role extends only as far as the law allows. This means that the officer will not act unless there is a threat to the law, a person, or property.

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wordprof eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The most important role, oddly enough, is to not play a role! That is, a policeman is an “officer of the law,” not a hero or a political climber, but an enforcer of the “law,” and as such, his or her responsibility lies in enforcing the law – the legislature makes the law, and the judicial system decides the proper penalty for breaking the law, but the policeman’s “role” is to recognize when a law has been broken, and to bring the wrongdoer to the judicial system. It is not the policeman’s place to prejudge or to select who among the lawbreakers should be brought to justice, but to apprehend the alleged lawbreaker. All other duties – public image, protective, preventive, etc. – are secondary. Too often, a human being given the officer status thinks the title gives him a “role” to play out in society. While this may be the public’s perception, the officer himself/herself must avoid confusing this perception with the actual job description and the powers that accompany the title.

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