Can you pick your partner as a cop?

No, you can’t pick your partner when you’re a police officer. There are exceptions, like during training and in larger departments. Most city and county police departments run single-unit patrols as a way to keep costs down, so partnerships are rare these days.

Law enforcement agencies and departments rarely allow officers to choose their partners. This is mostly due to the rarity of two-person patrol units these days. Police departments are managed from a top-down command structure. How daily operations look and are run is dependant on specific departments or agencies. Many questions are often asked about things like partnerships, training, schedules, and what a day in the life of a cop might look like.

Buddy cop movies are popular. These movies show partner cops solving crimes and being so close they could be family. In reality, most police departments run single-unit patrols. The buddy cop scenario looks a bit different, as are how a department is run and what happens on the job. Read on to get a picture of the reality of law enforcement and how partnerships and training, patrols, and even schedules operate on a day-to-day basis.

Do all police officers have a partner?

Can you pick your partner as a cop?

Many people view police officer partnerships as non-stop action punctuated by arguments over paperwork due to the movies. In reality, only major city departments tend to have full-time partnerships. Most departments run single-unit patrols, where multiple officers (and their respective vehicles) may respond to the same incident but are considered individuals units. So when does a police officer have a partner?

  • Training. There are two different models for training a police officer after the academy, the Problem Based Learning program(P.B.L.) and the Field Training Officer model (FTO). When a trainee is in training, she or he will be partnered with a more experienced officer. They will essentially be partners during training.
  • Night Shift. It is common to have a partner on the night shift. This would be dependent on how long the shift lasts, and if an officer were to be transferred to the day shift, they would then be made into a single unit patrol.
    K-9. Four-legged partners count. There is a lengthy process in becoming a K-9 police officer and a long list of requirements. This job requires an officer to have experience and have a vast knowledge of animal handling. Most officers admit to a sense of satisfaction working with their animal counterparts.
  • Support. Sometimes some officers are struggling with job performance. They are then partnered with a more experienced officer. Though not technically a training scenario, partnerships can be used to support working officers.
  • High-Needs Areas. There are areas in cities of any size where the majority of problems exist. These areas will most likely have two-officer units for reasons of safety.

Most patrol officers work individually. Depending on the department or agency, the budget will depend on whether or not there are partnerships. A common thought process is that it’s cheaper to buy cars for individual officers than to hire more bodies.

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What do police officers do besides patrol?

So now that it has been established, police patrols operate as single-units for the most part; what do they do on patrol? They are not just out to catch speeders. Other things happen while on patrol that makes a positive impact on the communities police officers serve.

  • Community-based Policing. These policies and outlooks towards policing are supposed to allow officers nonenforcement types of situations, like community meetings and neighborhood watch programs, to positively communicate with the public. The ideas are to have proactive interactions so that law enforcement officers can be seen as partners in the community, rather than just in a punitive light.
  • Outreach. School shootings, domestic abuse, and drugs are all issues police deal with in their jobs. Local police departments have been doing outreach that ties together with community-based policing practices. Some of these efforts focus on forming resource officer positions in schools, D.A.R.E. officers to teach students about the importance of resisting drugs, and visiting schools to discuss what to do in active shooter situations.
  • Presence. Sometimes, just the presence of law enforcement will dissuade criminal activity. Their visibility also shows the community that police officers are looking to keep the peace in urban, suburban, and rural communities.
  • Education. This is important. Especially in the age of COVID-19, many officers will educate the public about minor laws, regulations, and recommendations before offering the punitive. Officers see themselves as educators of the public, which builds relationships.

Police officers have an uphill battle in some areas of the country. More positive, proactive approaches are being investigated and initiated in many towns and cities. These men and women provide essential safety and security for the communities in which they serve.

Do police officers have to stick with the schedules they’re given when hired?

Can you pick your partner as a cop?

Departments will have officers work on a rotating shift schedule so they won’t have to remain at one time of day consistently. Law enforcement from small towns to large cities operate twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, all year. The types of shifts will depend on a department’s resources and workforce. A person’s position within the police force will also determine what changes are worked on day-to-day.

  • Detectives. Detectives will work regular hours and schedules similar to patrol officers, but sometimes an investigation will dictate different hours. Though most get paid for a 40 hour work week, there are times that investigations will take them into overtime. So hours can be somewhat flexible as a detective depending on the situation and agency they work.
  • Patrol. Patrol officers make up the main bulk of any department. The different shifts are usually 8-hours. There is a shift to 10 hour days in some departments to reduce costs and personnel. A typical schedule for patrol officers has three watches or shifts on a rotating schedule. These can start at any time and run for eight hours. The usual start time for the first watch or shift is 7:00-3:00 (0700-1500), the second watch or shift from 3:00-11:00 P.M. (1500-2300), and the third watch or shift from 11:00-7:00 A.M. This, of course, is just a traditional format and departments or agencies will choose what works best for personnel and where officers are needed. Day and night shifts look very different during these periods as well.
  • Special Assignments. These include operating as a K-9 unit, task forces, or special units like SWAT. In most agencies or departments lucky enough to have a dedicated K-9 team, their schedules usually run during evenings and nights. This is when their services are needed the most. Task forces or select units usually also run their schedules, so the hours are dictated by need. Like with anything, there are exceptions to these statements.

Hours and schedules can be dictated in interesting patterns at times. Things like 10-hour and 12-hour shifts have been popping up more as departments try and manage resources due to budget cuts. So, depending on where a police officer works and what position they have within the department will dictate the schedules.

Like with any job, being a police officer has its own unique set of norms. Law enforcement may operate differently than almost any other job out there. Things like partners, training, and daily operations have their own set of rules.

Related Questions

What does a police officer do on their off times?

This depends on whether an officer is working a day or night shift. Night shifts can mess with an officer’s sleep schedule, so even off times are different. The personnel on these schedules may not want to do a lot when they have time off. Day shifters have more normal schedules and do average things. Often, this is due to more businesses being open during off times and running on schedules similar to other day workers.

What are some of the benefits of community policing?

Community policing is a policy that promotes law enforcement building proactive relationships with the people of their communities by helping create neighborhood watch programs and other educational activities. This helps strengthen these communities. If officers have positive relationships, it builds trust when criminal activities do take place. One of the biggest benefits of this is seeing that most police officers do positively impact the communities they serve.

What is the difference between FTO and P.T.O. training of police officers?

Field Training Officer (FTO) is a highly evaluative system and can last anywhere from 3-6 months, depending on the department or agency. They focus on on-the-job training, and the rookie is partnered with a more experienced officer. A new officer will get evaluated on critical points with a pass or fail system. This is more widely used as it has been around since the ’70s. Police Training Officer (P.T.O.) was established in 1999 and focused more on building critical thinking skills on an adult learning model. It relies on training officers using problem-based learning.

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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.