Police and detectives held about 780,000 jobs in 2012. Police and detective work can be physically demanding, stressful, and dangerous. Police officers have one of the highest rates of on-the-job injuries and fatalities.
In addition to confrontations with criminals, police officers and detectives need to be constantly alert and ready to deal appropriately with a number of other threatening scenarios. Officers regularly work at crime or accident scenes and other traumatic events as well as deal with the death and suffering that they encounter. Although a career in law enforcement may take a toll on their private lives, many officers find it rewarding to help members of their communities.
The jobs of some federal agents, such as U.S. Secret Service and DEA special agents, require extensive travel, often on short notice. These agents may relocate a number of times over the course of their careers. Some special agents, such as those in the U.S. Border Patrol, may work outdoors in rugged terrain and in all kinds of weather.
Police and detectives have a higher rate of injuries and illness than the national average. They may face physical injury when conflicts with criminals occur, during motor-vehicle pursuits, when exposure to communicable diseases occurs, or through many other high-risk situations. Police work can be both physically and mentally demanding as officers must be alert and ready to react throughout their entire shift. Police and detectives may minimize these risks by following proper procedures.
Uniformed officers, detectives, agents, and inspectors usually are scheduled to work full time. Paid overtime is common. Shift work is necessary because protection must be provided around the clock. Because more experienced employees typically receive preference, junior officers frequently work weekends, holidays, and nights. Some police officers chose to work off duty as security for restaurants, retail stores, and other establishments.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition
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