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What Are the Duties of Patrol?

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 880,000 police officers, many of which are on patrol duty. Patrols enable departments to look for cases of law breaking and respond to calls for help. Police on the street can also build a list of contacts that can help during investigations. While often ranking lower than detectives, patrol officers perform important duties.

Responding to Calls

One of the primary purposes of patrolling officers is to respond to calls for help. Police officers on patrol may also be called in to provide backup for other officers or to aid detectives in securing a crime scene.

First Responder

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Patrol officers are considered first responders during emergencies. In addition to addressing calls about crimes in progress, police officers also assist during accidents and emergencies. Police officers investigate traffic accidents,set up barricades and direct traffic to keep the area safe while ambulances and firefighters work at scenes of accidents or fires. Patrol officers may be called in to direct traffic when traffic or train crossing signals fail.

Traffic Stops

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Patrol officers enforce traffic laws. Officers can pull over drivers who are speeding, driving dangerously or who have expired tags, and they have the discretion to give a verbal warning or a ticket. Patrol officers can also run a check on a license or a license plate if the person they pulled over is acting suspicious. Many arrests are made by patrol officers during a traffic stop when a check on the person reveals outstanding warrants.

Developing Contacts

Patrol officers regularly interact with the public and develop relationships within the community. Pat McCarthy, a veteran Chicago police detective and contributor to, advocates these contact to aid criminal investigations. While detectives and investigators handle the crime scene and look for physical clues, the patrol officer can use his contacts to locate witnesses and suspects.

Paperwork and Court Dates

A patrol officer's job involves a lot of paperwork. Arrests and tickets issued must be processed, along with any regular reports required. Patrol officers may also appear in court to testify in criminal cases or traffic offenses with which they have been involved.


Philip Rodney Moon has been writing since 2004. His work has appeared in Cracked, The Art of Manliness, "The Spartan Weekly" and Spartanedge. Moon has a Bachelor of Arts in telecommunication, information studies and media. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2009.