Police Commissioner: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
Police commissioners serve their communities by overseeing police departments, either as sworn officers or as civilians selected to sit on a board of police commissioners. Read on to learn about the job duties, requirements and salary info associated with this career.
Police Commissioner Job Description
City and state governments often head up their police departments by appointing an officer to serve as the police commissioner. This individual is responsible for overseeing the administrative and day-to-day operations of the department and has typically worked his or her way up through the ranks.
In other cities, however, the police department is overseen by a board of civilians whose members have been elected by citizens or appointed by the mayor. In many cases, these commissioners serve on a part-time basis for terms lasting up to five years in length. Their primary responsibility is to provide citizen input into the police department's policies, actions and decisions.
The general objective of police commissioners is to establish department policies and procedures. They're also responsible for coordinating the activities of various divisions, such as patrol services, criminal investigations and code enforcement, and overseeing the performance of the department's sworn officers and civilian staff. They must also work to develop positive relationships with their communities and collaborate with other government entities, including the district attorney's office, state and county police departments and federal agencies, like the FBI.
Board members are also responsible for setting department policy and procedure, though the nitty gritty of carrying them out is usually delegated to a police chief. Their primary job duty is to hold regular, public meetings to discuss community concerns and policy issues related to law enforcement. A board of police commissioners can also be tasked with appointing a police chief and determining compensation for police department employees. They might also be in charge of disciplining employees and approving budgets.
While there are no universal requirements for this position, police commissioners come to the job with significant supervisory experience as police chiefs, deputy police chiefs or other high-ranking positions. Relevant work experience could also include employment with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the armed forces or correctional services. Additional requirements might include the completion of an executive law enforcement training program or a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. Police commissioners could also need to pass a medical and psychological evaluation and a background check.
Police commissioner board members may or may not have experience in law enforcement, and they often come from a wide range of backgrounds. Requirements vary by jurisdiction. In many cases, these police commissioners must be residents of the city in which they plan on serving, and their election or appointment must be approved by the city council.
Police commissioners' salaries vary according to the size of the city for which they work. Compensation might also fluctuate depending on whether a commissioner works for a city or state government. For example, salaries for police commissioners working in large metropolitan areas like New York City and Boston hover at around $200,000 per year. State police commissioners could earn comparable salaries, while police commissioners working in smaller municipalities might earn annual wages closer to $125,000 per year.
Members elected to civilian police commissioner boards on a part-time basis can receive a small salary of between $2,000 and $7,000. Other members might simply be reimbursed for travel expenses accumulated during their service.
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