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A Day in the Life of a Police Officer

From Heartwarming to Hardship, Learn What It's Like to Work As a Police Officer

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Policeman arresting suspect

A police officer arrests a suspect Image copyright Zigy Kaluzny, courtesy of Getty Images

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Working as a police officer brings on a range of emotions.  It can leave you feeling satisfied, rewarded, sad, disgruntled, lonely and fulfilled, all in the same shift.  If you've ever wondered what it's like to work in law enforcement, take a look at a day in the life of a police officer.

Time to Make the Doughnuts...

The alarm wakes you up from your long sleep or your nap, depending on what shift you're on.  You grab a quick shower to get the sleep out and give yourself a thorough shave so your sergeant doesn't ding you on your inspection.

As you get dressed, your whole demeanor changes.  You become quiet, stern and thoughtful as you prepare yourself mentally for whatever the day is going to bring. You stop being "you."  Slowly, as you strap on your ballistic vest, tie your boots and zip up your uniform shirt, you become "officer you."  As you wrap your utility belt around your waist, the transformation is complete.  

10-8, In Service and Ready for Duty

You kiss your kids and your husband or wife goodbye or goodnight, again depending on what shift you're on, and step outside and into just another day on the job.  You sit down in your patrol car, turn the ignition, and reach for your police radio.  You key the microphone and advise your dispatcher that you're "10-8," in service and ready for duty.

Traffic Stop

As you pull out of your driveway and onto the main road, you spot a car with a headlight missing.  You pull the vehicle over, get out of your car and cautiously approach.  You wonder whether this will be your last traffic stop ever as you get closer to the violator's car.  

You introduce yourself and inform the driver that you pulled him over because his headlight is out.  You let him know that it's a potential safety hazard because it affects not only his ability to see, but other drivers' ability to see his car.  You issue him a warning or faulty equipment notice to remind him to get it fixed and wish him a safe day.

Crash With Injuries

Back in your patrol car, your dispatcher advises you that there's a serious traffic crash with injuries and entrapment near your location.  You inform him that you're "10-51 10-18," en route with lights and sirens.

When you arrive on the scene, you see chaos.  Two vehicles appear to be welded together.  The coolant and oil that was spilled in the crash is burning and boiling off of the still-hot engines, transforming what was once two distinct vehicles into one massive, steaming pile of twisted metal.

Though you're trained to give first aid and basic life support, you are silently thankful that an ambulance is already on scene.  You see paramedics talking to a bloodied driver in one of the vehicles, while firefighters work fervently to cut a way into the vehicle to get her out.  There's a driver in the other car as well, but he's not moving.  No one's trying to help him, either.

A crowd is gathering as you talk to one of the paramedics and confirm what you already knew, that the crash involved a fatality.  You call for a traffic homicide investigator begin to cordon off the scene with crime scene tape.  Out of respect for the deceased, you grab a fire blanket out of your first aid bag and drape it over the dead person's car.

You gather witnesses, take statements and work to identify the drivers.  When the traffic homicide investigator arrives, you brief her and provide the information you've obtained so far.  She takes over the investigation, and you offer to provide whatever assistance she needs.

Notifying Next of Kin

Relieved of investigative responsibilities, the task falls to you to inform the deceased's next of kin.  In this case, it's a wife who stays home to care for two small children.  You show up at her door and ring the doorbell.

She answers the door and stares at you as you stand there with your hat in your hand.  She knows why you're there, and you know she knows.  There's no easy way to tell her, so you rip the band aid off.  "Ma'am, I'm very sorry to tell you that your husband has been killed in a car crash."  Naturally, she cries, while you do your best not to.  You offer to make phone calls for her and to stay with her until a family member, minister or friend can get there.

Back on Patrol

After you've made sure that the new widow has been cared for, you get back into your patrol car and inform dispatch of the time you made notification.  You advise that you're "10-98," task completed, and that you're "back 10-8."

Worn out and thirsty from the day so far, you stop at a gas station to get a cup of coffee.  You avoid doughnut shops at all cost so you don't play into the stereotype.  You drive through the parking lot and scope the place out one time to make sure you're not walking blindly into a robbery.  As soon as you walk in the door, the clerk greats you and asks you to deal with some teenagers who are causing a disturbance in the store.  You never do get your coffee.

Real Police Work: Report Writing

After you leave the gas station, you find a vacant parking lot to catch up on reports.  You park someplace where people can see you if they need help, and it doesn't take long before someone does.  As they approach, you get out of your car so they can't surprise you while you're sitting down.  You're always thinking tactically.  As it turns out, they just need directions, which you are more than happy to provide.

You just get back to your report writing when another car pulls up.  You get back out of your car and meet an elderly woman who's frightened because her door was open when she got home, and she remembers shutting it and locking it.  She asks you to come to her house and make sure it's safe and that no one broke in.

Burglary and House Clearing

When you get to the house, you ask her to stay outside by her car as you check the doors for any signs of breaking in.  You notice scrape marks on the rear door and it appears someone tampered with the lock.  You draw your handgun and enter the house to clear it, wondering if it will be the last thing you do.

Finding no one in the house, you ask the woman to come in and see if anything is missing.  You caution her not to touch anything as you process the scene, and call for a crime scene technician.  She gives you a list of what she is missing.  You tell her you'll do everything you can to help her get her things back and make sure she's safe and secure before you leave the scene to enter evidence into the property room at the station and write your report.  

She offers you $20 dollars for your trouble, which you decline.  She insists in paying you for your services despite the fact that you tell her you're already getting paid.  She continues to press the issue, so you ask her to donate it to a charity of her choice instead.

 

You drop off your evidence at the station and realize that it's almost time for your shift to end.  After you finish the required paperwork, you get back in your car and start your way home.

You Never Get Home On Time...

As you're pulling into your neighborhood, you notice a car in front of you is weaving within it's lane, slowing down, speeding up and braking erratically.  You become concerned that the driver is either impaired, tired or sick.  Whatever the case, you know it requires further investigation.

Despite the fact that your shift ended 15 minutes ago, you pull the car over.  When you approach the vehicle, you're greeted by the strong and distinct odor of an alcoholic beverage.  The driver's eyes are bloodshot and watery, and his speech is slurred.  

Even though you're already late getting home, and even though it will take another three hours before you're finished with the paperwork, you know your job and your duty so, after the driver performs poorly on the field sobriety exercises you offered, you make the arrest.

One More Day Down

After you've left your paperwork at the jail, you make your way home.  Fortunately, this time, you don't come across any other issues.  You walk in your front door four hours later than you were supposed to.  Depending on your shift, your dinner's long gone cold or your family has already had breakfast and left to start their days.

You take off your uniform and slowly transform back into yourself.  Tired from a long day, you lay down to go to sleep.  Your last thoughts are about how happy you are to have the opportunity to do be a police officer, and how thankful you are that you made it home safely for one more day.

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