Police Supervisors Jobs - Education, Career Path and Salary Outlook

First-line supervisors of police and detectives are responsible for overseeing and coordinating the activities of police force members.

Posted 2010

Police supervisors job description: First-line supervisors of police and detectives are known by various titles, including police sergeant, police captain, police lieutenant, police shift commander, police chief, detective sergeant, chief of police and patrol sergeant. They offer guidance, explain procedures and direct operations to assist police personnel in performing their job duties.

Police supervisors ensure that their departments adhere to legal requirements during criminal case investigations. Typical job duties include training staff in proper work procedures and evaluating team and individual job performance. First-line supervisors of police and detectives must also ensure proper recordkeeping and evidence management. These professionals work closely with other law enforcement agencies and courts; they may also testify in court proceedings.

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Because of the detailed nature of police work, maintaining logs and preparing thorough reports of crime investigations are vital to success as a first-line supervisor of police and detectives. Personnel management is another fundamental component of this occupation.

Police Supervisor Job Summary

  • Bilingual first-line supervisors of police and detectives with specialized police science training will have the best job opportunities.
  • Candidates for this career must be adaptable to a sometimes dangerous and stressful work environment.
  • Education requirements to enter this field vary from a high school diploma to college degree.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that heavy competition is expected for positions with state and federal agencies.

Work Environment for First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives

Like most law enforcement professionals, first-line supervisors of police and detectives work when and where conditions require. The occupation’s work environment ranges from an office to a crime scene. Depending on the organization they work for, first-line supervisors of police and detectives are sometimes confronted with criminals and other threatening situations. They must be alert and ready to react to changing situations, while witnessing behavior and suffering that may cause stress and take a toll on their personal lives. Travel may be required, and physically demanding working conditions are common. While many police and detective supervisors put in 40 hours per week, they are typically required to be on call nights, weekends and holidays.

Education, Training and Licensing

Individuals interested in becoming first-line supervisors of police and detectives usually work their way up through the ranks of a local, state or federal law enforcement agency. High school graduates with plans for law enforcement careers may seek an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, law enforcement or related fields, and then apply for training through an agency’s police academy. Candidates must be U.S. citizens who are 21 years of age or older and meet physical and psychological fitness standards.

Admission to a local or state police training program often requires a high school diploma, but some departments prefer candidates with at least some post-secondary education. Many entry-level applicants for police work have graduated from a community college or university program in criminal justice. Knowledge of a foreign language is considered an asset in many agencies and will often give applicants an advantage over the competition.

Training for law enforcement recruits can last 12 to 14 weeks and generally involves classroom instruction in constitutional law, civil rights, and state and local ordinances. In addition, accident investigation, self-defense, first aid and firearms training classes are commonly taught in police academies.

Federal agencies typically require training program candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree and have related work experience. Job applicants must undergo thorough background checks. Recruits then go through extensive training before becoming federal agents.

After a number of years of experience and continued training, police officers are eligible for promotion to detective and then to corporal, sergeant, lieutenant or captain – the first-line supervisors of police and detectives.

In addition to a law enforcement education, candidates for this career must have the physical and psychological ability to handle police work. Supervisors must also possess excellent communication skills, as well as knowledge of business and management principles and leadership qualities. They are expected to keep up with developments in the criminal justice field and advances in law enforcement equipment.

Job Projections, Outlook and Earnings for Police Supervisors

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) records for May 2014 show that first-line supervisors of police and detectives held approximately 101,420 jobs; most were with local, state and federal government agencies, while a small percentage were in colleges and universities.

The BLS predicts employment in this field to grow as fast as the average for all occupations. Job growth will occur as the population expands. More competition is expected for positions with federal and state law enforcement agencies.

How much do police supervisors earn? According to the BLS, first-line supervisors of police and detectives earned a median yearly salary of $80,930 in May 2014. The middle 50% earned between $61,480 and $104,150, while the lowest 10% earned about $47,720. The highest 10% had annual salaries of $128,970 or more.

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