You don't have to become a police officer to work in law enforcement agencies or security roles. Many agencies and organizations also employ civilians in support, technical, scientific or administrative jobs. There are many different options in this field, and these jobs are often popular with people who don't want to become a sworn police officer or who do not qualify, but want to work in law enforcement in some way.
Sworn vs. Non-sworn
Sworn police officers take an oath to support the constitution, their state and the laws of the jurisdiction in which they work. They can make arrests and carry firearms. Non-sworn officers may work for the same agencies and may carry out basic police or investigative work, but they will not take an oath and will have limited legal powers or none at all. Their roles may be diverse; all roles support the work of their agencies.
Security and Policing
Some police departments, agencies and security companies recruit non-sworn officers for supporting police officer roles. You could, for example, work in a correctional facility or as a campus security officer. Some community outreach and crime prevention roles are reserved for non-sworn personnel. In some jurisdictions you may be able to take on minor policing and investigative tasks such as traffic control, fingerprinting, surveillance, taking reports and basic investigations. Non-sworn officers usually only take on tasks that are classified as non-dangerous.
Support and Administration
Most law enforcement agencies employ civilians in support roles. The best-known options here are dispatch, 911 operations, general call-handling and officer liaison, but there are many other roles depending on the size of the agency or department. Non-sworn officers can take on front desk duties, records management, clerical, accounting and administration jobs, and evidence management responsibilities. Larger departments may also employ public relations and media specialists, and victim support personnel.
Scientific and Technical
Most criminalist and forensic roles go to non-sworn officers. As a forensic technician, you could work collecting and analyzing evidence. Technical support roles include jobs in IT functions and vehicle and equipment management. Some agencies also employ analysts to collate and interpret evidence and crime patterns. Intelligence specialists usually work in larger federal agencies and departments on broader issues such as gang warfare, terrorism and organized illegal activities.
The skills and qualifications you need to become a non-sworn officer vary depending on the job, the agency for which you want to work and your location. You may need to take an exam and/or go through a specific civil service process before you are hired. Many jobs also require a background investigation, health assessment/drug screening and, in some cases, a polygraph test.
Carol Finch has been writing technology, careers, business and finance articles since 2000, tapping into her experience in sales, marketing and technology consulting. She has a bachelor's degree in Modern Languages, a Chartered Institute of Marketing.certificate and unofficial tech and gaming geek status with her long-suffering friends and family.