The job of police commissioner is only available in some areas, usually large cities where a police commissioner is used in place of or as a supervisor to a chief of police. Obtaining a career as a police commissioner is through appointments from mayors or elections; therefore, the job is a political one, whereas chiefs of police are often hired based more on their professional qualifications than on their political savvy.
A police commissioner supervises the work of those in lower ranks in the police force and acts as a representative of the city's police force to politicians and the public. Police commissioners are most often employed as the heads of police forces in large cities such as New York, Chicago, Singapore, and London.
Prospective police commissioners should study criminal justice in college, and should strongly consider starting their careers in law enforcement. Following college, the future police commissioner should pass written tests and physical exams and training at boot camp in order to become an entry-level police officer. Numerous years as a police officer may be required before advancing to leadership or administrative jobs within large police departments or the security divisions of large corporations. Further years at such positions may additionally be required before one can hope to be appointed to the position of police commissioner.
Not all police forces, particularly those in small towns and rural areas, have police commissioners. Those who wish to pursue the rank of police commissioner must be willing to relocate to large cities. Because the job of police commissioner is obtained through city-council election or mayoral appointment, it is also important for a potential police commissioner to network and establish a close working relationship with future or potential mayors, council members, and other commissioned officers.
The position of chief of police or police captain is very similar to the job of a police commissioner. In rural areas or small towns, the elected sheriff will serve as the chief law enforcement officer. Although the title is different, the jobs are very alike. The difference lies in the amount of responsibility. Police commissioners of large cities have significantly more responsibilities than the chief of police does in a small town.
A police commissioner performs many duties from supervising, the police force of the city, to acting as the intermediary between the police officials and elected officials of the city. The police commissioner relates police force recommendations or requests to the mayor and other elected officials or commissioners in the city. In addition, the police commissioner institutes changes in the force that are implemented by governmental officials, such as mayors or city councils.
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