Police officers are heroes to many, but their work is demanding and stressful by nature. The challenges that officers face depend somewhat on what types of jobs they do, but being a police officer means functioning and communicating at high levels while dealing with the stresses of irregular work schedules, multiple assignments and dangerous situations. Constant re-location is a reality for officers working high-risk assignments, such as drug enforcement. Along with these varied and strenuous professional demands, officers also remain under constant scrutiny from superiors and the public they serve.
The U.S. economic slowdown of 2008 was tough on many police agencies because of steep budget cuts. According to "Police Chief" magazine, 12,000 police officers and sheriff's deputies were laid off in 2011, while 30,000 more positions went unfilled. With fewer officers on the beat, local departments must collaborate with each other more often. To excel in this climate, officers needed to hone their multi-tasking skills and show a willingness to handle extra assignments and work with peers from other police agencies.
Police officers cannot afford to get too attached to their cozy cottages, since relocation is a reality in police work, depending on the officer's position and assignment. Some federal agencies -- such as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Secret Service -- require extensive travel, often on short notice, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states. Agents of the U.S. Border Patrol, on the other hand, work outdoors, in all types of rugged terrain and weather. Officers working under these conditions can expect to move many times during their careers.
Mental, Physical and Emotional
There's no way around it -- police work is a mentally, physically and emotionally demanding profession. Officers must stay alert during a shift and adjust to life-threatening situations at a moment's notice, the bureau's occupational summary says. Most police agencies operate around the clock, so officers may work nights, weekends and holidays. These assignments often fall on junior officers, until they build enough seniority to gain preference in scheduling. Just like the television stereotypes, such irregular scheduling makes it difficult for officers to balance their job's demands with a home and family life. Police officers often are on the scene for tragic events, may see human nature at its worst and face personal danger in the line of duty.
Good social skills are a bonus for police officers, since they encounter people from all walks of life. To win trust, officers must become proficient communicators, even when working under tremendous stress, according to an Officer.com website article. One way to win favor in tough situations is by practicing tactical communication, which emphasizes speaking to people in non-confrontational language without losing control over the situation. The success of these methods are influencing police protocols for communicating with special needs populations, such as people with mental illnesses. The officer's willingness to adopt these techniques can mean the margin between life and death while on patrol.
Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.