A law enforcement officer upholds the laws of his or her country, and the jurisdiction in which the officer works. This may mean being responsible for more than one set of laws. For example, a city police officer will uphold local ordinances, state laws and federal laws. A law enforcement officer may be a patrol officer, a special agent, or a type of detective.
In addition, a law enforcement officer could work for a variety of organizations. The most visible of these organizations will often be the local police department, or county sheriff's office. Law enforcement personnel are also required at the federal level. In the United States, law enforcement jobs are available in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Secret Service, along with a few others.
The most common type of law enforcement officer seen is the patrol officer. As police jobs go, this is likely to be the most hands-on position, and the one with the most interaction with the general public. These officers are responsible for responding to calls of initial reports of crimes or incidents, patrolling traffic, and maintaining general order. They usually also handle some routine investigations. They are commonly the officers who will write citations or be involved in apprehensions.
If investigations involve a major crime, the officer likely to take over will be a detective. Usually, this officer will have experience in criminal investigations, and specialized training in evidence collection, securing a scene and conducting interviews. This person will usually be one of the key witnesses at a trial as well, documenting how evidence was collected, going over chain of custody issues, and other such procedures. A law enforcement officer in this job must make sure he or she is very thorough.
Law enforcement careers can also run into the area of forensics testing. The officers involved in this line of work have special training as well. While they are sometimes not thought of as officers, some are duly-sworn, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of the position. A person in this field is responsible for a different aspect of the investigation - usually running tests on collected items in a controlled, sterile environment.
Though there are many people involved in law enforcement, each type of law enforcement officer fills a need. A federal law enforcement position specifically deals with federal laws. A city police officer is more concerned with state and local laws, but cannot completely ignore federal laws. Officers from all agencies work together as needed to develop a comprehensive strategy for fighting crime.