What is a Peace Officer?

Police officer walking towards a convertible car

Keeping the peace—that’s one of the aims of a myriad of criminal justice professionals.

A number of Sheriff’s Offices have the motto, “Keeping the Peace since [their year of formation].” Probation officers supervise offenders to ensure they are keeping the peace within their communities. A bailiff keeps the peace within a courtroom.

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You’ve probably heard the term peace officer. Saying it out loud, it almost sounds the same as police officer. But do they mean the same thing?

Peace Officer Definition

The exact definition of peace officer depends on jurisdiction—in other words it varies from state to state.

“A peace officer generally refers to any employee of a state, county, or a municipality, a sheriff or other public law enforcement agency, whose duties include arrests, searches and seizures, execution of criminal and civil warrants, and is responsible for the prevention or detection of crime or for the enforcement of the penal, traffic or highway laws,” states DiscoverCorrections.com.

Often a peace officer is a law enforcement officer, like a police officer, sheriff, sheriff’s deputy, constable, constable deputy, marshal, etc.

However depending on jurisdiction, other types of criminal justice professionals may also be classified as peace officers, such as security officers working for a municipal government, investigators working for an attorney general or district attorney’s office, parole officers, probation officers, rangers, arson investigators, airport police or security officers, inspectors/investigators for an authority or state department (i.e. like a department of agriculture, a taxicab authority, a medical board, a gaming control board, an alcoholic beverage commission etc. ), and more!


An officially recognized peace officer is certified through his or her state’s POST (Peace Officers Standards and Training Council).

Not every state has a POST bearing the title words Peace Officer (some state laws do not even recognize the title peace officer). Instead the equivalent might be called a Police Officer Standards and Training Council, a Public Safety Officer Standards and Training, a Law Enforcement Training Center, a Commission on Law Enforcement Standards or the like.

If an employer requires candidates to be certified peace officers through the state’s POST, they might allow you to complete the certification process after being hired within a certain timeframe.

To become certified, candidates must meet the minimum requirements (i.e. High School/GED, screenings and background checks, etc.) which will vary by state. They must also complete training at an academy or center approved by the POST and pass a certification exam. Finally, to maintain certification, the POST generally requires peace officers to participate in relevant training, refresher courses, or a skill requalification, such as in firearms.

Are you ready to keep the peace?

Find out what it means to be a peace officer in your state and how to become one.

Whether called a peace officer or police officer, probation officer, correctional officer, city marshal, special investigator…those criminal justice professionals, who are genuine and dedicated, strive to  keep the peace each and every day.