Expectations for Working Conditions

Working conditions also vary greatly depending on the type of law enforcement job held and the place where the profession is practiced. Whether it is a city or rural community, local, county, state, or federal service, each agency has specific working conditions that are dictated by both the locale and the mission statement of the agency. Law enforcement jobs that adhere to conventional work weeks, with weekends and holidays off, are rare. Enforcing the law is a twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, three-hundred-and-sixty-five-day-a-year proposition. Working nights, weekends, and holidays is customary for most agencies because of the simple reality that crime never takes a vacation.

Being busy at work while others are sleeping or at play is only the beginning of the unusual working conditions that face most law enforcement officers. Many departments require unusually long shifts—ten and twelve hours at a time. Others agencies require multiple days and nights in a row on duty, with an appropriate number of days off to compensate. Some officers work four days on with two days off, which means a constantly changing set of days off for that person. There are arguments for and against constantly changing shifts, but some departments employ a rotating schedule which has officers changing shifts periodically. The arguments for this include overall fairness, and officers becoming familiar with the many different demands of each shift, thereby making them better officers. Arguments against the practice claim it wears on employees, unnecessarily causing fatigue and burnout, and that it is better to have individuals assigned to a single shift all of the time in order to provide consistency during that shift.


No matter what agency you join, you can expect to work nights, weekends, and holidays in the beginning. Senior agents tend to get first choice when it comes to shift selection. Newer people often must settle for the more inconvenient and less-desired shifts until they gain experience and seniority.

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