What General Duty Police Do

by Graham Maranda


Recently, I stumbled upon a report prepared by the NSW Auditor-General in 2000 titled 'Performance Audit - Managing Injured Police - NSW Police'.  It included an annexure of the 'Inherent requirements of a General Duties police officer'.

This formal break-down provides a clear overview of what front line policing entails.  I suggest these 'inherent requirements' are consistent for all front line Australian police.

General Duty PoliceIn preparing this article and reading through the 'inherent requirements' summary, it took me back to the late 1970s when I was a young fit whipper snapper working the night shift (11pm to 7.30am) on the main general duties truck (Ford F100 with prisoner cage) from the Waverley Police Station (Eastern Suburbs, Sydney).  I recall a particular night, mid-week, wet and windy as winter was starting to set in. 

Inclement weather combined with time of day would normally provide a relatively quiet shift, but for some reason we had a busy workload.   Starting at 11pm we hit the road running - job after job.  The crews at surrounding stations - Bondi, Rose Bay, Paddington and Randwick - were also having a busy night.  Maybe it was a full moon?  Eventually, around 3am it seemed everyone was thankfully tucked up in bed.  Very little traffic remained, the police radio less and less intrusive, then quiet.

Goodie, chance to take meal break.

We ducked up to Bronte, just past the police station to the late-night hamburger joint.  The burger place was owned and operated by 'Henry', who we suspected had done a bit of jail time in his younger days.  He had a head fairly similar to that of a junk yard guard dog.  Henry liked the Cops and we liked him.  We never ever got called to Henry's for any trouble - we think Henry always sorted his own problems out. 

After getting our burgers, heading back to the station, the police radio crackled, 'Car 10/1 - motor vehicle accident - no person injured - Birrell and Newland Street'.  Damn, bugger and bummer.....  We acknowledged, 'Car 10/1 - copy that - ETA 5 minutes.'  

It was still wet, it was still windy and it was still dark, but it was my partner's turn to investigate and take the accident report.  So I managed to eat my burger while directing traffic.  He or she, (I can't remember which), eventually got to eat theirs - once it was cold and 40 odd minutes old.

So, here are the requirements:-

Administrative & General Requirements

  • Undertake operational patrols, respond to situations to enforce laws and / or maintain public order, exercise police powers, investigateincidents or offences, and prepare and present evidence in a judicial or quasi-judicial setting.
  • Manage a wide range of persons who are placed in care, detained in custody or require assistance pending the arrival of qualified personnel. Utilise appropriate communication, practical and physical skills in order to protect persons from harm or further casualty and to deal with uncooperative/aggressive people.
  • Provide the public with service and support, utilise problem-solving techniques and adapt communication strategies to meet client needs, stay abreast of current affairs, and foster a positive organisational image in the community.
  • Perform administrative duties in support of operational responsibilities; prepare forms, correspondence, legal briefs of evidence and where required apply professional judgment.
  • Apply discerning judgement in the application of police powers and use of appointments (e.g. handcuffs, batons, capsicum spray and firearm).
  • Stabilise and preserve the scene of accidents, emergencies, disasters or crime scenes.
  • Assist victims and manage incidents involving significant conflict or emotional distress (such as domestic violence, child abuse and SIDS).
  • Undertake a range of traffic duty including safely stopping motor vehicles, point duty and the management of traffic flow at the scenes of emergencies.
  • Exercise authority and give directions, use coercive force when necessary, and use tolerance and reasonable firmness and discretion.
  • Collect evidence, identify suspects, write statements, compile briefs of evidence, present evidence in court.


  • Lawfully drive police vehicles safely in varying road, terrain and operational conditions. Including the systematic, safe and efficient control of all vehicle functions; effective management of hazardous situations; urgent duty driving and periphery observation skills whilst driving a motor vehicle.


  • Communicate in noisy environments, such as, use of police radio whilst siren is in operation and speaking with members of public in licensed premises.
  • Understand with clarity softly spoken instruction in face-to-face conversation and over the radio or telephone.
  • Adapt communication style to suit different situations.
  • Read and comprehend written communication.
  • Take notes and prepare comprehendible written reports.
  • Use a computer to access or update information.


    • Wear Harness Belt - weight on average 8-10 kg depending on size of torch and baton.
    • Physically restrain individuals; utilise self-defence techniques where necessary.
    • Perform crowd control at community events or demonstrations.
    • Walk long distances while performing beat duty or stand for lengthy periods on traffic duty.
    • Handcuff someone resisting arrest.
    • Engage in self-defence.
    • Withstand physical assault from another person.
    • Physically restrain a person.
    • Wrestle with a person.
    • Safely handle a baton.
    • Safely handle a firearm while on duty.
    • Fire a handgun whilst on duty.
    • Climb stairs to ascend more than one story of a building.

            Observation and Memory Skills

            • Accurately discern, record and provide evidence of factors, such as colour, distances and size etc, associated with the identification of suspects, offenders, vehicles etc.
            • Provide and detail evidence in court relating to distances, colour and descriptions when giving evidence in defended matters.
            • Observation skills whilst on patrol - observe things at a distance and at close range.
            • An ability to maintain an awareness of what is occurring around you as you concentrate on other issues.
            • An ability to take in information, analyse it, and then make and apply decisions from that analysis.
            • Gather and exchange information from and with the community; and use analytical and keyboard skills, recording equipment and information systems to record, organise and analyse information.
            • Hear and comprehend information without eye-view of the speaker.
            • Long range visual acuity, short range visual acuity, colour vision.
            • Memory for events, people, places etc.
            • Memory for legislation and administrative procedures.

                Resilience & Adaptability

                • Perform shifts of up to 12 hours duration (or longer if overtime) day and night, any day of the year.
                • Cope with the climatic variables associated with outdoor duties.
                • Adapt to regular shift change-over and protracted investigations not conducive to regular breaks.
                • An ability to operate effectively in stressful and physically demanding Situations.
                • Take precautions against infectious diseases and hazardous items.
                • Cope with irregular meal and toilet breaks during a shift.Cope with working in very hot or cold environments.


                • Make decisions under pressure.
                • Manage workload.
                • Conflict resolution skills.
                • High integrity standards.
                • Problem solving skills.
                • Interpersonal traits.
                • Tolerance.
                • Cooperativeness.
                • Assertiveness.
                • Empathy.
                • Respect authority.
                • Conscientiousness.
                • Emotional stability.
                • Patience.
                • Self-control.
                • Resilience to stress.
                • Composure in stressful situations.

                © Graham Maranda


                The Busy Writer's One-Hour Plot

                The Busy Writer's One-Hour Character

                Book of Checklists

                The Busy Writer's Self-Editing Toolbox

                The Busy Writer's KickStart Program

                Write a Book Fast