Explore the Chain of Command in the Police Department with a Criminal Justice Degree Online
Police job descriptions: learn how to work your way up in the police department.
Chain of Command at the Police Department
Promotions usually happen from within a police department. Before beginning your criminal justice degree online, if you are planning to become a police officer, you should know what the chain of command is. The following example is from the Los Angeles Police Department, but other police departments are similar.
Police Officer Careers
A police officer is initially a probationary officer who advances upon successful completion of his/her probationary period. Police officers may do the following:
- Be assigned to a foot beat, a patrol car, bicycle patrol, mounted unit or a motorcycle
- Be part of a specialized unit, such as a SWAT team
- Serve as a Vice investigator
- Become an instructor at the Police Academy
- Train detectives
- Take on legislative duties
- Act as news media coordinator or recruitment officer
If you get a criminal justice degree online you will begin your career as a police officer with a better chance of promotion.
Police Detective Careers
A police detective is assigned to specialized functions of criminal investigations. Detectives are responsible for the following:
- Responding to the scenes of crimes
- Conducting investigations
- Preparing reports
- Apprehending suspects
- Preparing the case for a successful prosecution
- Testifying in court
Some of the specialized duties performed by police detectives include: narcotics investigations, surveillance; gang related crimes; investigating scenes of crimes such as homicide, theft, robbery, auto theft and illegal sex related activities.
Police Sergeant Careers
Police sergeants perform the following duties:
- Supervise patrol officers on foot or in vehicles
- Review and approve reports
- Respond to crime scenes at the request of police officers
- Handle radio calls and dispatch personnel
- Keep supervisors informed of important issues
- Train and supervise probationary officers
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Police Lieutenant Careers
A police lieutenant is responsible for several tasks:
- Supervising patrol sergeants, police officers and detectives who carry out crime suppression and investigative functions
- Respond to scenes of serious crimes such as shootings, homicide, major robbery and theft
- Review and ensure complete and accurate follow-up investigations
- Keep their captain informed of issues of concern within his or her command
Police Captain Careers
As the commanding officer of a patrol or detective division, a police captain is responsible for such activities as:
- Inspecting and overseeing the functions of the patrol officers or detectives
- Supervising the administrative and support functions of non-sworn personnel
- Inspecting personnel, facilities, and tactics for safety and training
- Maintaining liaison with government, and civic and private organizations to promote neighborhood safety
In addition to carrying out these duties, police captains assigned to specialized divisions such as Narcotics, Organized Crime and Vice, Homicide, Juvenile Services, Auto Theft, Financial Crimes, Air Support and Transit are responsible for unique duties characteristic of each division.
Careers as a Police Commander
Police commanders act as commanding officers for Community Affairs, Uniformed Services, Detective Services, Juvenile Services, Criminal Intelligence, Personnel, Training, Internal Affairs and Transit Groups. Each of these Groups is sub-divided into more specialized divisions such as Narcotics, Organized Crime and Vice, Anti-Terrorist, Auto Theft, Air Support, Crime Suppression, Labor Relations and Homicide, and each Division is under the command of a Police Captain. Police Commanders are promoted from the rank of Captain.
For the higher ranks within the police department, a criminal justice degree may give you the upper hand when it comes time for promotion.
Police Deputy Chief
The police deputy chief is the second highest rank in the police department and reports directly to the chief of police and can be promoted from the rank of captain or commander. The deputy chief is assigned as the commanding officer of major organizational components such as Geographic Operations Bureaus, Detective Bureaus, Human Resources Bureau or the Internal Affairs Group.
The deputy chief acts as a chief of staff to the chief of police and keeps the police chief informed about all operational activities.
Chief of Police
The chief of police (COP) is the highest-ranking officer in the police department. As the general manager or CEO of the police department, the COP is responsible for the planning, administration and operation of the police department. In this capacity, the COP directs, plans and coordinates the enforcement of city ordinances, and the laws of the state and nation for the purpose of protecting people and property, and for the preservation of peace.
The COP is generally selected from within the ranks of deputy police chiefs and should have a college degree and at least 12 years of progressively more responsible law enforcement experience.
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