How Do I Describe What is Operational Support for a Police Department?

Updated April 17, 2017

In a police department, operations units are the units that perform direct services to the public. Such service may include patrols, traffic police, investigations and crime prevention.

Operational support for a police department will consist of all units within the department that provide support to the operations units in the field or on the street. Those units might be SWAT, canine units, hostage negotiators, forensic science and information technology specialists. The purpose of operational support for a police department is to provide services to those in operations to help such officers complete their respective jobs in the field.

Explain what you mean by operations and operational support. You will need to define both terms before attempting to describe operational support, to set forth the context correctly. Keep in mind the definition of operational support can vary among police departments. For example, in some units, operational support only refers to those units that provide direct assistance to officers in the field, while departments such as human resources or maintenance will fall under the business unit. In other departments, there are no such distinctions; your job falls under either operations or operational support.

Tell your audience that operations refer to all services provided directly to the public by the police department. Provide examples of service provided directly to the public. Such readily recognised services include patrolling, detective services and crime prevention. Other services not usually recognised may include community relations, school officer programs and community services.

Explain to your audience that operational support provides direct support to those operations units, so they can complete their missions in the field. Provide examples such as a SWAT unit and a hostage negotiator might receive a call from officers responding to a bank robbery that has escalated into a hostage-taking situation.

Tell your audience that in some units, operational support also refers to indirect support for units in the field or the organisation as a whole, and such support may include human resources, payroll, maintenance, clerical or personnel. While these units do not go into the field to help officers, they do provide indirect support in making sure officers receive pay on time; receive fair treatment among supervisors and peers; and help them handle personal paper associated with their employment.

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