Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Police Officer?

Mark Lichtenstein

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Everybody's an expert on police work these days -- aren't we? After all, police officers are favorite main characters on TV and in the movies, whether it's the average uniformed officer on a beat or maverick detective in plainclothes. And TV and movie depictions have gotten far more sophisticated since the days of "Dragnet" and "Hawaii 5-0." Nowadays, law-enforcement dramas include depictions of forensic science and courtroom procedure and show deal with issues including racial justice and burnout. 

But does all this mean that you know all about the average police officer in the US, and what a typical day on the job is like? For example, do you know what type of gun is most favored by police departments? Or what kind of car most officers drive on the job -- or motorcycles if they're in a motorcycle division? Do you know if police officers are allowed -- or required --  to mediate in domestic disputes? Law enforcement is a complex and demanding job, and there's a lot we just don't see on TV. 

So if you want to test your knowledge of this challenging job -- and maybe see how you'd do if you had to spend a day wearing a badge -- try our 35-question quiz. We promise if you don't do well on it, you'll still be free to go!

What is the job of the police?

Police are there to serve and protect the public. In a democracy, the state serves the people, and the police serve the state, thus the people. That's Constitutional, baby!

What gun brand do most American police use?

The Glock 22 is the most popular handgun used by law enforcement. It's reliable and it packs a mighty punch!

What is "Miranda"?

The Miranda rights are read to all arrested people to ensure they know about their rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. They come from a Supreme Court case, Miranda v Arizona.

What does "taking the fifth" mean?

The Fifth Amendment prohibits the cops from forcing a person to self-incriminate. Confessing for a lesser sentence means waiving this right.

What is a code three?

A code three is when a police car is told to use the lights and the siren.

What is "chain of custody"?

Chain of custody is important to prove that evidence could not have been tampered with between the crime scene and the lab or courtroom.

What does it mean to "book" someone?

Booking someone is what happens when they arrive at the station after being arrested and are put into a cell. The paperwork involved is "booking".

Why were Ford Crown Victoria cars prized by the police?

This construction means the car can be smashed to heck and still work.

What car is currently the favored police cruiser?

The police use several kinds of cars, but they like the Dodge best.

What motorcycle is historically the ride of highway patrol officers?

The police drive the Harley-Davidson FLHTP Electra Glide out on the highway.

Were speed gun detectors ever illegal?

Police got in trouble for confiscating these speed trap detectors from people, and now only do it with commercial vehicles.

In what state is speeding a felony?

If you're stopped over 80 mph in VA, you can get hit with an "RD" which is a felony, not a regular ticket; it's a very serious thing.

What is the difference between felony and misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor usually won't stop you getting certain jobs, it can expire, and you don't have to confess it on all sorts of forms. Being a felon means losing your vote, among other disasters.

What constitutes "police brutality"?

Police brutality is when the police use any violence more than is absolutely necessary to arrest a suspect and carry out their job.

Are the police expected to help deal with family altercations?

The police can be called to what they call "a domestic". They often find these situations deeply upsetting, as the victim is often unwilling to press charges as they love their abuser or are financially dependent on them. Sometimes the police press charges anyway.

Can the police interrogate therapists about things told to them by their patients?

The police can get your records in certain cases, and if you plan to commit a crime - for example, you tell your therapist you plan to shoot your ex - then they are able to report that.

Can the police question a suspect's lawyer about the alleged actions of their client?

The sanctity of confidentiality is very close to absolute. Obviously, though, your lawyer cannot help you move the body and then claim that's covered.

Can the police question clergy about things said in a confession to them?

The priest faces automatic excommunication, so they will definitely never talk without the penitent's permission. However, the police can arrest them for that.

Can the police impersonate the clergy?

The police can't do that, no - not to get a confession, anyway. That would not be admissible.

Can the police impersonate a lawyer?

The police can't pretend to be a defense lawyer to get you to tell them stuff. That is not admissible.

What is entrapment?

The police can't tell you to enter a building then arrest you for trespassing in it. That's entrapment, which is not allowed. Any crime they trick you into like that, is not admissible.

What is internal affairs?

Internal affairs looks into accusations of police brutality, fraud, crime, etc, to make sure the thin blue line stays honest.

Who founded the FBI?

The three founders of the FBI got together over 100 years ago to set it up.

How big is the FBI?

The FBI has 35,000 people. They handle federal crimes and certain crimes that go across state lines.

What is the current sidearm of the NYPD?

Some older officers were very mad about the rookies getting better guns!

What was the standard sidearm of the NYPD before the current one?

The Sig Sauer was one of two guns available, the other one was the Glock 19.

How are most British police armed?

British police do not carry guns. British gun culture is very restrained and limited to people who keep their guns locked up and pay for a license.

What is the worst time to get booked in New York City?

If you get booked on a Friday, you may not get in front of a judge until Monday - or Tuesday, if it is a holiday weekend. That means spending up to four nights in custody!

When was the FBI founded?

The FBI was founded while Teddy Roosevelt was in office, in 1908.

How big is the LAPD?

The LAPD is 12,000, of which 9,000 are officers.

How big is the NYPD?

The NYPD is the biggest police force in the US, including the FBI; New York is a complicated place.

How many police lost their lives on the job in 2016?

In 2016, 64 officers lost their lives in the line of duty, according to CNN.

What is the RICO Act?

The RICO Act helps the Feds take out whole criminal networks. If one person in your organization committed murder, everyone can be nailed for it. That's a powerful incentive to flip on your worse buddies.

Are the New York police expected to put out fires?

While cops are certainly brave enough, they are not equipped, and the rules have been changed to suggest that they should focus on civilians instead of on the fire itself.

What other government service has a historical rivalry with the police?

Police and fire have a friendly rivalry rather like the Marines and the Navy or the Army and the Airforce. These days it's mostly about football games and lightheartedly poking fun.

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