This paper will examine what public service is. It begins by defining public service and then identified the type of job responsibilities that a public servant has, with emphasis on the criminal justice system. It then explores a number of questions on the qualities, rewards and sacrifices of a law enforcement officer (and other public servants).

Public service is a broad topic, which is why being a public servant is not easily defined. This paper is going to examine what public service is in general. It then explores the specifics of public service and law enforcement. Finally, it will conclude with a discussion of what a law enforcement entails from a public service angle.

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What is Public Service?
The first question that has to be considered is what public service is. Public service has a dual application, because it refers to those services are to benefit the public (Allen & Sawhney, 2009), and the act of the person serving the public. However, this does definition does not clarify the nature of public service. Allen & Sawhney (2009) define public services as:
Services are provided by federal, state or local governments for the community. There is generally no direct payment for the service, but funding comes through taxes… Some public services, like law enforcement, are provided for the good of the society and not necessarily loved by those who deal with them (p. 73).

The inference is that public services are necessaries, which the government has to provide to society. The extent and nature of public services will depend upon what the citizens of the state will pay for. However, there are some public services that are necessary, such law enforcement, defense and government. Therefore, public service is both a complex and simple concept (i.e. the public servant is serving the public). The complexity of public services lies with what is considered a public service.

Job Responsibilities of Public Servants:
The job responsibilities of public servants are as broad as what the citizenry deem their taxes should be paid for. For example, librarians and museum curators may be public servants if the government provides the service. The job responsibilities of the law enforcement officer may be a little clearer, but again it depends upon what departments are present. A local law enforcement officer, such as a sheriff, will investigate crimes, provide community policing and promote crime prevention programs. On the other hand, a city-based police detective will focus on the particular crime(s) that his/her department is in (i.e. narcotics, sex crime, homicide, vice). A Federal Law Enforcement Officer will also deal with the federal crimes that he/she is designated to (i.e. kidnapping, witness protection). There are also state special agents, as long as the state sanctions such a title. For example, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (Virginia ABC) is one such agency (Virginia ABC, “Law Enforcement”). The role of this agency is dedicated to the safe administration, sale and consumption of alcohol. Thus, a law enforcement officer will investigate counterfeiting and licensing violations.

The Nature of Law Enforcement:
The public servant should dedicate their lives to serving the public, which is the very basis of the career (Allen & Sawhney, 2009). The level of dedication is higher for law enforcement officers, because he/she is putting her life on the line (Allen & Sawhney, 2009; Reuker, 2008). This means that commitment is essential. Public servants in necessary services, such as law enforcement officers, have to make sacrifices for their jobs. This is because crime does not stop, because there is a public holiday. Or that a crisis will not occur on a family holiday.

In conclusion, if an individual wants to have a career in law enforcement the sacrifice and dedication is the norm. The very basis of law enforcement is based on serving the public. Thus, if an individual becomes a law enforcement officer then he/she will have to compromise on their personal life, in order to serve the public. However, from this dedication and sacrifice there is a very rewarding job.

  • Allen, JM & Sawhney, R. (2009). Administration and Management in Criminal Justice: A Quality Service Approach Thousand Oaks: CA, SAGE
  • Ruecker, RC. (2008). Presidents Message: Honoring the Memory and Sacrifice of Fallen Officers. The Police Chief Vol. LXXV, May 5, 2008
  • Virginia ABC. “Law Enforcement”. Retrieved from: http://www.abc.virginia.gov/enforce/enforce.htm