Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.
Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.
Occupation: Police Officer
Overview: Police officers serve and protect, keeping the peace, often putting themselves at great risk to do so. In the scope of their duties they enforce the laws and investigate, pursue, and apprehend anyone who breaks them. Officers may enforce traffic laws, resolve community and domestic issues, respond to emergencies, follow up on 911 calls, and investigate suspicious circumstances or crimes that have taken place. They also interview suspects and witnesses, issue tickets, and when the situation warrants it, arrest those who have broken the law.
Police officers are usually assigned an area to patrol and work with a partner. The type of work they do will often depend on where they are located (a small town will have different crimes overall than a big city, for example, and the area one patrols may be more high crime, gang-related crime, “white collar crimes,” etc.). To carry out their duties, officers should be unbiased, highly ethical, and not display favoritism. The work is both mentally and physically tasking and the shift-work can be hard on relationships and make work-life balance difficult. That said, officers help and safeguard the public, work to solve problems and bring about amicable solutions, and deal with people at their worst (drug addicts and people under the influence, thieves, gang members, etc.) and have the opportunity to try and encourage them to make life changes before it is too late. Officers are also in a position to help lift the burdens for victims, helping them navigate difficult situations by showing compassion and empathy and using their knowledge and resources. Making a difference in the lives of others can make this a very rewarding career.
Necessary Training: While the specifics of education and training will vary depending on where your book takes place, generally speaking, a police officer must be a high school graduate, pass a thorough background check, be in excellent physical condition, and attend a police academy (and graduate). There they will learn state and constitutional laws, local ordinances, civil rights, and accident investigation. Recruits also learn about traffic control, first-aid, emergency response and receive firearms and self-defense training. Officers will also need to pass written, physical, and psychological tests, as well as a polygraph. Officers may be trained in special areas and learn special investigation techniques.
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, basic first aid, blending in, enhanced hearing, ESP (clairvoyance), exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, high pain tolerance, hot-wiring a car, knife throwing, knowledge of explosives, lip-reading, lying, making people laugh, photographic memory, reading people, self-defense, sharpshooting, strategic thinking, strong breath control, super strength, survival skills, swift-footedness, wilderness navigation
POSITIVE: Adaptable, alert, analytical, calm, cautious, charming, confident, courageous, decisive, diplomatic, disciplined, easygoing, efficient, empathetic, focused, friendly, honest, honorable, independent, just, loyal, objective, observant, organized, patient, perceptive, persistent, persuasive, proactive, professional, proper, protective, resourceful, responsible, socially aware, tolerant, wise
Sources of Friction: being shown disrespect by the public one is protecting, being hurt on the job, losing a fellow officer in the line of duty, having to kill someone in the line of duty, the scrutiny of every decision made, dealing with the politics of the job, dirty cops that give all cops a bad name, having to notify families of someone’s passing, being repeatedly exposed to traumatic situations (horrific car accidents, violence against children, grieving families and victims, school shootings, etc.) and trying to process the psychological stress in the aftermath, dealing with “armchair experts” who try telling the police officer how to do their job, dangerous situations one must enter with little knowledge (active shooters, terrorism, drug operations, chemical threats, searching suspected drug users, etc.), PTS, trying to keep work and home life separate, relationship strain (due to long hours, being unavailable at times, etc.), dealing with misconceptions and misunderstandings of a police officer’s job
People They Might Interact With: suspects, criminals, members of the press, firefighters, coroners, detectives, FBI or other government agents, the public, victims and their families, paramedics, witnesses, other police officers, city officials, judges, lawyers
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Self-Actualization: If an officer joins the force to make a difference but is instead disrespected and unappreciated due to a negative public opinion of the police, it may lead to disillusionment and questioning this path
- Esteem and Recognition: If your character becomes guilty by association after a very public mistake by another officer, their esteem make take a big hit.
- Love and Belonging: The long hours, possible emotional struggles and necessity of not discussing what happens at work at home may leave a partner feeling like they aren’t a priority. Marriages may fail and relationships may grow strained with children because of the job, creating a void in the need of love and belonging
- Safety and Security: A police officer’s job is inherently dangerous meaning safety and security will always be tenuous at times
- Physiological Needs: Because a police officer thrusts themselves runs toward danger when others flee and often works in high-crime areas, there are many situations that could threaten their lives.
Common Work-Related Settings: airport, alley, ambulance, bank, bar, basement, big city street, car accident, cheap motel, coffeehouse, community center, condemned apartment building, convenience store, courtroom, emergency room, empty lot, fire station, gas station, hospital (interior), hospital room, house fire, house party, indoor shooting range, jewelry store, juvenile detention center, liquor store, morgue, nightclub, parking garage, parking lot, pawn shop, police car, police station, pool hall, prison cell, pub, razed city street, rec center, rock concert, shopping mall, skate park, small town street, subway train, subway tunnel, trailer park, train station, truck stop, underpass,
Twisting the Fictional Stereotype:
Avoid writing police officers who are lazy, inept, and easy to fool. This is a frustrating and utterly false stereotype used to further the plot.
Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.