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Law Enforcement Careers - Chief of Police Job Duties, Education and Training

The chief of police is responsible for managing and directing all operations of a police department, including protecting local citizens and preventing crime.



Posted 2010



A chief of police makes sure that the law is kept and that ordinances are followed. When the law is broken, the chief is responsible for ensuring that the suspect is apprehended and charged with a crime. In addition, the police chief must plan and implement strategies for how the department will carry out its work. The chief of police is in charge of all officers within a municipality, and he or she develops appropriate ongoing training for them.The chief also works closely with other jurisdictions concerning apprehensions and detention of suspects.

In addition to his or her law enforcement duties, the chief of police may coordinate public information and community programs. He or she must represent the police department in a positive way that will assure the public that the department is always there to support its citizens.

Much of a police chief’s day is spent in the office, planning and investigating complaints. The individual in this role writes reports, ensures accurate recordkeeping and performs many supervisory duties. Because of the use of computers, recordkeeping is faster and easier, freeing the chief to perform other key duties such as labor relations and budgeting.

Chief of Police Job Summary

  • The chief of police is responsible for all police activity and for protecting the people and property of his district.
  • An associate’s or bachelor’s degree is sometimes required, along with experience as a police officer.
  • The chief of police reports to the city manager or to the mayor of a city or town.

Work Environment for Chief of Police

Most police chiefs have a private office, but may spend a great deal of time in other places – interacting with officers in all departments, meeting with city officials in government offices, speaking to reporters at press conferences and meeting with the public at special events.

Police work can be dangerous and stressful. The chief of police has the added pressure of managing officers, liaising with city officials and dealing with the public. He or she needs to be ready to respond to threatening situations at any given time, which demands a constant state of alertness and readiness to step in and support officers. In addition, this job sometimes brings the added stress of seeing suffering and death due to criminal action and accidents.

The chief of police may work a 40-hour week, but he or she is often on call and must be ready for emergencies that require assistance. A police chief’s duties may involve working nights, weekends and holidays.

Education and Training to become Chief of Police

In general, a chief of police position requires years of service as a police officer and a minimum of a high school diploma plus police academy training. However, a growing number of departments prefer police chiefs to have completed some college or hold a degree. A law enforcement related associate’s degree or bachelor’s in criminal justice, police science or a related field can be an asset to those aspiring to a police chief role.

Law enforcement programs are offered at many junior colleges, colleges and universities. Police officers may receive tuition assistance from their department to pursue bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, administration of justice, police science or public administration. In addition to criminal justice coursework, officers can also benefit from physical education classes to develop the stamina, agility and competitiveness that will be needed on the job. Proficiency in a foreign language may be helpful for those serving urban areas.

Chief of police candidates should enjoy meeting the public and working with people. Sound judgment, integrity and honesty are very important qualities for individuals in this role.

Candidates who hope to become police officers must be U.S. citizens at least 21 years old, and they must pass a physical exam that includes hearing, vision, agility and strength tests. They are also required to pass a challenging written exam is required as well. Decisions to promote officers to corporal, sergeant, lieutenant and captain are made based on an officer’s test scores and job performance. Officers who desire to move into these ranks can benefit from continuing training that will improve their job performance. Annual training in use-of-force policies, firearms, advances in law enforcement equipment, crowd-control techniques, self-defense tactics, sensitivity and communications skills, and relevant legal developments are available to police officers and police chiefs.

Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook and Earnings

Police chiefs work in every city, town and municipality in the United States that has a police department. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) findings, as of May 2009, there were close to 100,000 individuals serving as first-line supervisors and managers of police and detectives, including those in chief of police roles.

The BLS predicts average employment growth for those employed in law enforcement, with a 10% increase in jobs between 2008 and 2018. Most of this growth will be driven by an expanding population.

The annual Police and Fire Personnel, Salaries, and Expenditures survey published by the International City-County Management Association (ICMA) found that the average annual salary for police chiefs ranged from a minimum of $89,054 to a maximum of $117,563 in 2009.

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