Industry Research – Law Enforcement – A Look Inside a Small City Police Department

A Look Inside a Small City Police Department  |

By Rick Jones  |  vice president of sales at RecruitMilitary and a former master gunnery sergeant in the United States Marine Corps  |

Published in the November/December 2011 issue of print Search & Employ®  |

To help veteran job seekers evaluate opportunities in law enforcement and security, I will describe the organizational structure of a fictional department that is typical of cities with 25,000 inhabitants. I will base the description on the police departments of three actual cities of roughly 25,000 residents each.

Leadership. The chief executive officer of our Police Department is the mayor of the city. The chief operating officer is the chief of police, who is nominated by the mayor and confirmed by our City Council; the chief reports to the mayor. The police chief is in charge of the hiring, training, discipline, and promotion of personnel; community relations; crime prevention; and crime investigation. He also administers the department budget.

Reporting directly to the police chief are two captains. One is in charge of the Patrol Division, and the other heads the Support Services Division.

     Patrol Division. Three patrol shifts protect our city. The shift times are

  • Daytime:  7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Evening:  3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Midnight:  11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Each shift consists of 11 personnel and is led by a lieutenant and a sergeant. The Daytime and Evening shifts have one corporal and eight officers; the Midnight shift has nine officers. NOTE: “Officer” is a police rank – though the public commonly refers to all police personnel as “officers.”

The two corporals help all three of the patrol sergeants train new officers. They also fill in for those sergeants when the sergeants are on special duty, ill, or on vacation.

Two of the officers on the Daytime and Evening shifts go on bicycle patrol, and each shift has one motorcycle officer. The Daytime shift also has a K-9 patroller.

SWAT. Ten of the members of the patrol shifts are also members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. The chief of police chooses the members of the SWAT team on the basis of their special training, their experience, and their scores on certain tests – not on their ranks or their membership in a

particular shift. The commander of the team in our city happens to be the sergeant of the Evening Shift, and the assistant commander is the corporal of the Daytime Shift.

Four of the 10 SWAT team members from the Patrol Division are specialists – a sniper, a bomb/explosives expert, and two grenadiers. The grenadiers are responsible for the delivery of tear gas and other chemical agents, and for the breaching of walls and other thick barriers.

Also on the SWAT team are two detectives – members of the Support Services Division – who work as crisis negotiators. In addition, two cross-trained paramedics from our city’s Fire Department work directly with the SWAT team.

Support Services Division. The captain of the Support Services Division directly supervises all investigations. The division has five detectives, led by a sergeant. All of the detectives are available for all investigations, but all of them also have specialties: two handle drug investigations, one deals with child-abuse cases, one handles serious traffic accidents and hit-skip cases, and other is the department’s polygraph examiner and cybercrime specialist.

Also in the Detective Section are four non-sworn personnel: an evidence technician, who gathers and documents evidence and helps the detectives analyze evidence; a property-room custodian; and two records technicians.

Another sergeant in the Support Services Division leads a team of three special resource personnel, the Parking Enforcement Section, and the Communications Section. This sergeant is also the department’s crime-prevention specialist.

The resource personnel are (1) a school resource officer, (2) an animal-control officer, who is non-sworn, and (3) a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) officer. For information on the D.AR.E. program, visit There are three non-sworn personnel in the Parking Enforcement Section – a supervisor and two parking enforcement officers.

The Communications Section consists of eight non-sworn personnel: three communications supervisors – one for each shift – and five dispatchers. Our city has a combined Police/Fire Emergency Communications Center, so all of the personnel in the Communications Section are cross-trained, and part of their pay comes out of the Fire Department budget. The Center answers 911 calls and dispatches police, fire, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and animal-control personnel. The Center also monitors alarms for financial institutions and businesses.

The captain of the Support Services Division also conducts all background investigations of applicants for jobs in the department and all investigations of internal affairs. The sergeant of detectives helps the captain perform those duties.

In addition to the personnel described above, our Police Department employs several non-sworn administrative assistants and office managers/receptionists.



About the Author

This article was written by Jay Myers