Careers in Law Enforcement Administration

Although police officers usually receive the most attention within a law enforcement agency, many of their successes would not be possible without the assistance of law enforcement administrators.  These professionals provide instruction in law enforcement issues, acquire critical policing equipment, and manage the many administrative duties necessary to prosecute criminals.  These dedicated individuals are instrumental in maintaining police organizations so that front line officers can devote their time and efforts to crime prevention and investigation.

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Job Functions of Professionals in Law Enforcement Administration

Policy Development – Among the most important responsibilities that law enforcement administrators perform is in the development of internal policies.  They often create the blueprints for budget proposals, long term policing strategies and community outreach programs.  They provide the basic information collected from various personnel throughout the organization to the chief and other decision makers so they can make informed choices.  They also interact with other government organizations and the media to help facilitate organizational objectives.

Records Management – Administrative functions like records management, legal filings, and various office duties comprise the bulk of the manager’s responsibilities.  They may be asked to conduct background searches into the records of suspects, coordinate administrative processes with judiciary or other agencies, or handle interactions with the public or wider community.  As office managers, these professionals often implement internal policies governing management and law enforcement operations, plan police training seminars, and provide memorandum to critical personnel regarding new policies and laws.

Procurement – Law enforcement administrators are usually overseers of agency procedures.  They often plan, implement and evaluate new programs within departments.  They manage budgets, expenditures, equipment procurement, retirements, and benefits.  They often collaborate with government officials to help assess agency performance.

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Dispatch – Among the numerous responsibilities a police administrator may need to fulfill is that of dispatcher.  Although in larger organizations, this is a specialized position staffed by full time professionals, in smaller jurisdictions the administrator may be asked to take incoming calls, collect emergency information and relay it to the proper patrol or investigative unit.  Verbal communication skills are extremely important, as is the ability to remain calm and organized in an emergency situation.  Dispatchers usually only collect information, but in some situations they may be required to advise callers on how to respond to a crisis.

Law Enforcement Administration General Job Requirements

Most police organizations require their management staff to possess similar qualifications to their commissioned police officers.  Because these professionals may have access to sensitive information, high moral character is a necessity.  Basic qualifications in most jurisdictions include

  • U.S. citizenship
  • At least 18 years of age
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Driver’s license or some form of government issued identification document
  • No felony convictions

Candidates must provide accurate and complete details about academic and work history.  They must usually submit to comprehensive background checks, polygraph examinations and oral interviews to ensure they possess the highest moral standards and reputation.  A written exam assessing reading, logic or mathematics skills may also be administered.

For the law enforcement managers who transition from active police duty, a college degree is primarily a means to obtain some experience in common administrative systems and procedures.  An associate’s degree may be obtained in public administration or business management at local campus colleges or online.

Civilian administrators are usually hired from outside of the police organization and must compete with other civilian applicants. The qualifications may be higher for civilians from outside the department; many organizations require that managers possess a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related discipline.  Other jurisdictions may even require that the candidate complete the state’s police academy.  Many jurisdictions expect candidates to possess one to three years of experience in a law enforcement administration job.

Law Enforcement Administration Educational Requirements

At the local, state and federal level, law enforcement agencies depend on trained administrators to manage the organizational activities like procurement, training, and policing strategy development.  While many police administrators begin their careers as uniformed officers, others enter the profession with academic or career backgrounds in business or organizational management.  Those administrators who serve without being commissioned police officers must often possess associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degrees in public administration or related fields.  Even police officers that have demonstrated excellence in their law enforcement duties may find the management responsibilities of law enforcement administration challenging without some educational preparation.

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Law enforcement administration is often a stepping stone for police officers who wish to ascend to the highest ranks of their organization.  As uniformed officers they obtain experience in patrol duties, and once they achieve the rank of detective, they acquire experience in investigations.  Officers who wish to become chief or captain often need to supplement their experience with administrative responsibilities, which are among the chief duties for higher-ranking officers.

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