If you’re considering a career in law enforcement, you might want to know the differences and similarities between peace officers and police officers. There are many misconceptions when it comes to the career of a peace officer. Most people don’t know exactly what this type of career will include.
While it’s common for people to understand what a police officer is, it’s not so common for a peace officer. It’s easy to assume a peace officer isn’t a police officer, but this isn’t exactly true. Before you make your career decision, you should know a bit more about being a peace officer or a police officer.
What is a Peace Officer?
According to GoLawEnforcement.com, the term “Peace Officer” will vary from one state to another, but commonly “means a position that carries a badge, has the power to arrest and also carries a firearm.”
Other definitions include any person that has the authority to enforce laws in a state or jurisdiction. Anybody with legislative authority that has been sworn in has the power to arrest, and can push for criminal persecution, may be considered a peace officer. Even police officers are known as peace officers, but not all peace officers are police officers.
What is a Police Officer?
According to Merriam-Webster.com, a police officer is simply “a member of a police force”. This is a pretty simple definition, but it fits since a police officer has to be a part of the police force.
Peace Officer vs Police Officer: Main Difference
The difference between a peace officer and a police officer is what each term refers to. A police officer must be a member of the police force. However, a peace officer can be a member of the police force, but they don’t have to be.
The differences end there but do continue on an individual career basis. Depending on the type of peace officer you become, there might be even more glaring differences. For example, if you become an arson investigator, you are a peace officer. This position is very different from a police officer.
Careers Considered to be a Peace Officer
Since the definition of a peace officer is rather broad, there are many different careers that fit this description. Some of the most common types of peace officers include:
- Police Officers
- Patrol Officers
- Court Officers
- Municipal Law Enforcement Officers
- State Troopers
- Auxiliary Officers
- Secret Agents
- Special Agents
- Detention Officers
- Border Patrol
- Parole Officers
- Game Wardens
- Campus Officers (sworn in)
While it might seem like security guards should be on the list, they are not. They only become peace officers when given authority to enforce certain laws. When this happens, they will no longer be security guards, but security officers.
Police Officers are Peace Officers
Most regions of the world consider police officers to be peace officers. They have specific duties because they are police officers, which include:
- Arresting criminals
- Processing criminals
- Protecting life and property in a community by enforcing the laws
- Testifying in court
- Participate in campus policing
- Conduct witness interviews
- Take charge in emergency situations, such as accidents or natural disasters
- Handle traffic investigations
- Help in emergency situations, such as adverse weather
As a police officer, you will also need to understand specific legal documents, such as warrants and affidavits. You will also likely be trained to drive emergency vehicles.
Common Qualities of a Peace Officer or Police Officer
The qualities you need to be a peace officer or a police officer are pretty much the same and include:
- Courage – You need to be a courageous person to defend citizens and put their safety first.
- Professionalism – As a peace officer or police officer, you need to be very professional when performing your duties.
- Integrity – Every peace officer and police officer must have integrity. You need to be fair and honest when performing your duties.
- Humanity – It’s important to remain grounded and have respect for life in this type of career.
There are many qualities you should possess if you want to be a peace officer or police officer. You need to have good resilience as you protect citizens in your jurisdiction.
Frequently Asked Questions About Peace Officers and Police Officers
Does a peace officer carry a firearm?
Peace officers can carry a firearm, but they don’t always carry a firearm. They can enforce the law with a weapon or without.
Will a peace officer have to have a warrant to arrest someone?
Not in every circumstance will a warrant be necessary. Peace officers can carry out a no-warrant arrest. This does vary from one jurisdiction to another. Often, in a life-threatening situation, a peace officer can make an arrest without a warrant.
When can a peace officer make a no-warrant arrest?
There are situations when a peace officer can make an arrest without a warrant. These situations include:
- When a person is known to be a criminal or there is a complaint filed against them.
- When someone is a known offender.
- When someone is suspected to be a military deserter.
- If a person has broken into a home or has possession of anything from the break-in.
- If someone tries to interfere intentionally with the duties of a peace officer.
- When someone tries to stay hidden intentionally to commit a crime.
- If a person possesses something related to a crime, such as stolen property.
There are a variety of careers you can go into as a peace officer. You will have to narrow down the list if you decide you want to go this route. The list can include becoming a police officer.
Often, you will need to start with the same training as a police officer for other peace officer types of careers. However, as you advance your career, you will likely need to gain additional training. Peace officers and police officers are similar, but one is more specific than the other. Make sure you do your research before you choose the right career in law enforcement for you.