Police officers work in close collaboration with the communities they serve to maintain law and order, protect members of the public and their property, prevent crime, reduce the fear of crime and improve the quality of life for all citizens.
Police officers work in partnership with the public using a wide range of technology to protect individuals, identify the perpetrators of crime and ensure successful prosecutions against those who break the law.
Key priorities for the 53 police forces in the UK are maintaining public order through combating organised crime, acting against anti-social behaviour, and countering the threat of terrorism. Police officers work closely with members of the criminal justice system, social workers, schools, local businesses, health trusts, housing authorities, town planners and community groups of every kind to provide advice, education and assistance to those who wish to reduce crime or have been affected by crime.
The new crime strategy, Cutting Crime: A New Partnership 2018-2021, (England and Wales) delivers a fresh approach to tackling crime and identifies new areas for police focus, including greater flexibility for local forces to deliver local priorities.
In Scotland, priorities are decided by the Justice Department of the Scottish Government and local implementation is conducted by police forces taking into account local variables.
Typical work activities
The work of a police officer is both challenging and diverse. A variety of specialist roles are available to officers who have completed their probation and their Police Diploma (Scotland), their Higher Education Certificate in Policing (N. Ireland) and the NVQ in Policing (England).
On entry, and during initial training, activities are likely to include:
- working in partnership with communities liaising with community groups and individuals;
- providing a visible presence to deter crime and reassure the community;
- conducting patrol duties on foot, by car and bicycle;
- developing community knowledge to identify individuals and locations at risk of being involved in crime;
- responding to calls and requests from the public to assist at incidents;
- keeping the peace at public meetings, social events, processions, trade disputes or strikes;
- diffusing potentially volatile situations with due regard to the safety of all involved;
- acting with sensitivity when dealing with situations such as delivering news of a sudden death to a family or when dealing with sexual crimes;
- conducting initial investigations, gathering evidence, taking statements and complying with relevant legal requirements;
- interviewing suspects, victims and witnesses in accordance with relevant legislation;
- conducting arrests with due regard for the human rights, security and health and safety of detained individuals, members of the public, colleagues and self;
- preparing crime reports and presenting case files to senior officers and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) (England and Wales) the Procurator Fiscal Service (Scotland) or the Public Prosecution Service (Northern Ireland);
- attending and giving evidence in court and at other hearings;
- completing administrative procedures;
- submitting internal crime reports and criminal intelligence reports;
- investigating and taking action on criminal information received from members of the public;
- gathering, recording and analysing intelligence to achieve community safety and crime reduction objectives and providing crime prevention advice;
- taking direction on specific duties from senior colleagues;
- attending road-related incidents including collision scenes, vehicle check points and traffic offences;
- enforcing road traffic legislation and issuing fixed penalties for relevant offences;
- dealing with lost or found property.
Police Officer Salary
- Range of typical starting salaries: between £22,104 on commencing service and £26,109 on completion of the initial training period (salary data collected December 2020).
- Range of typical salaries with experience (e.g. after 10-15 years in the role): £34,707-£39,006 (sergeant); £44,469-£48,234 (inspector) £49,221-£51,246 (Chief Inspector) (salary data collected December 2020).
- London weighting (of up to £6,501) and additional competency-related threshold payments are available for all ranks.
- Other benefits (dependent on location) can include free London travel, flexible working and key worker living benefits.
- An automatic Police Pension Scheme is provided but individuals may choose to make independent pension provision.
- A full-time working week is 37 hours, with an average of two rest days. Police officers provide a 24-hour public service so this is not a ‘nine-to-five’ job. Unsocial hours, shift work, and emergency call-outs are required. Overtime is available and is paid at a higher rate.
- The daily working environment is variable. You may be in a patrol car, outside on the beat, at the station or attending court.
- The environment can be physically demanding, potentially dangerous and at times deeply harrowing.
- The work is pressurised, with officers facing a continual succession of calls on their time and resources.
- Work conditions may be influenced by regional factors such as local terrain and culture, and size of the force.
- Part-time working, job share and flexible hours are available. Career breaks are possible after the probationary period.
- The police service is keen to reflect the diversity of the communities it serves and welcomes job applications from women, ethnic minority groups and the lesbian and gay community.
- Job opportunities exist throughout the UK and transfers between forces are possible dependent on position availability and the suitability of the officer concerned.
- A free uniform and equipment are provided. Police officers are expected to adhere to a dress code.
- On appointment, police officers become members of the Police Federation of England & Wales , the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) or the Police Federation for Northern Ireland which act in matters of Police welfare and pay and provide a range of ancillary benefits.
- New police officers are not permitted to join an external trade union.
- Police officers and sergeants usually retire after 35 years of service or on reaching the age of 60; various compulsory retirement ages apply for higher ranks (65 for those above chief inspector).
- Police officers are governed by a code of conduct both on and off duty.
- Travel away from home is rare but absence from home overnight may be common because of shift work.
Employers and Vacancies
There are currently 43 police forces in England and Wales – a list is available from the Association of Police Authorities (APA) – and they employ around 140,500 police officers, 14,000 volunteer special constables and 13,400 community support officers.
There are eight police forces in Scotland overseen by the Scottish Police Services Authority . Full details are available from Scottish Police Forces . There is a single police force in Northern Ireland.
Chief constables report to local police authorities (known as policing boards in Northern Ireland), which are independent statutory bodies identifying the strategic direction of police services. Pay, conditions of service and discipline are regulated by the Home Office , the Scottish Government Justice Department or the Police Service of Northern Ireland .
Specialist forces, such as the British Transport Police , the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) , operate in their own areas in a similar way to the local forces.
Roles also arise within the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) , which is responsible for providing support in areas such as information and communications technology and national training and development programmes for future generations of police staff.
The Forensic Science Service (FSS) is a government-owned company and is the key provider of forensic science services to police services in England and Wales. In Scotland, the Forensic Science Service is provided by the Scottish Police Services Authority with four forensic science laboratories, in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI) is a government executive agency within the Northern Ireland Office.
Sources of vacancies
Recruitment agencies, such as Police Vacancies , All Police Jobs and Police Information advertise roles for police officers who want to transfer services and for retired officers. Some support roles are advertised via the Civil Service Jobs Online .
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