Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department.
A police specialized unit exists in every police department, and the goal of every new police officer is assignment to a police specialized unit. Having goals is fine, but you should understand that every new officer begins his or her police career in patrol. Patrol is the primary function of every police department no matter the size of the department. It doesn’t matter if the department consists of two police officers or two thousand.
In the two member police department, your primary function will always be patrol, but you will also be specialized. You’ll be responsible for all aspects of law enforcement to include activities that would be considered specialized in larger departments. Your small department will have support from larger entities like state police or sheriffs, but you’ll retain your autonomy.
Let’s put you in a scenario. You and your police chief are the only police officers in a middle class community of 4,500 residents. Your town experiences crime like any other, but it doesn’t have significant numbers of crimes and criminals. Serious criminal incidents are very rare, and your town has never experienced the commission of a homicide.
Today will be different when you’re directed to a residence to investigate the trouble. The trouble will turn out to be a double homicide requiring the assistance of a police specialized unit. If you were an officer working in the two thousand member department, that police specialized unit would be homicide detectives. In this instance, you and the police chief make up the required police specialized unit. Your chief was hired considering prior police experience, and part of that background was ten years as a homicide detective.
I used this scenario to illustrate that police work is the same no matter the size of a police department. The only differences are in numbers, and the levels of experience among members of the departments. The existence or non-existence of a police specialized unit does not determine the mission of a police department.
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