Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Police Officer

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.

Below is a sample version of this entry to help you see how an occupation can reveal your character’s beliefs, history, goals, and more.

To view the full entry, visit One Stop for Writers where it resides within the largest fiction-based descriptive database ever created. (Free Trial available.)

is your character a police officer? Here's how to write that profession!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…

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…

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

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, basic first aid, blending in, enhanced hearing, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, high pain tolerance…

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Adaptable, alert, analytical, calm, cautious, charming, confident, courageous, decisive, diplomatic, disciplined, easygoing, efficient…

NEGATIVE: workaholic

Sources of Friction: 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, struggling with bias

People They Might Interact With: Suspects, criminals, members of the press, firefighters, coroners, detectives, FBI or other government agents

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
  • 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…
  • 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…

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.

How will your character’s occupation help reveal their innermost layers?

Much of your character’s life will revolve around their work, and whether they love it or hate it, their job is a great way to show, not tell, their personality traits, skills, work ethic, worldview and beliefs, and more, so we should choose it with care.

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Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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1 year ago

I was married to a cop so kbnow this one well! Good job 😀

Traci Kenworth
2 years ago

Great notes for the occupation, Angela! I love these blog posts!