A police officer puts on his or her badge, gun, and other vital gear essentials and walks into the unknown every day; never knowing if they’re coming home to their family. This career path is complicated and fraught with many physical and mental perils. Police officers must live up to the expectations of the communities that they serve and face judgment for difficult decisions made with just seconds to spare.
So, not surprisingly, not everyone can be a police officer. There are specific qualities that police officers must have to be effective and some of them may surprise you.
1. Excellent Communication Skills
Deputies and officers use communication skills in every aspect of their job. Their reports must be clear, accurate, and graphic in detail to relay the necessary information. An officer must know how to de-escalate tense situations such as verbal domestics and fights to prevent violence as much as possible. They need to be assertive in their actions but not too authoritative. It’s a delicate balance.
Police officers aren’t always driving 120 mph in pursuits or arresting people. Most of their interaction is with everyday citizens. It’s important to communicate professionally yet friendly with people in the community. Approach every conversation with respect. Officers and deputies respond to many common questions and discussions so they must relay the correct information and know-how to explain complicated laws and the criminal justice system.
Officers who present themselves as friendly and knowledgeable develop trust in the community that they serve. Communication skills allow them to build rapport with citizens and other officers.
Equally important are the officers listening skills. You’ll hear stories and explanations on every call or encounter with people. Those who actively listen and ask questions often resolve complicated situations much quicker. It’s easier to get to the bottom of a problem.
2. Problem Solving Skills
Perhaps the most important of all police gear that an officer utilizes is his brain. People expect police officers to make many lightning-fast decisions daily that require them to be quick on their feet.
They never know what problem they’ll come up against and must have incredible instinct. Law enforcement officers must also combine the knowledge of the law, procedures for their departments, research skills, and the ability to analyze information to synthesize data. The process that goes on in a police officer’s mind can be complicated.
It often takes many years of experience to enhance their problem-solving skills, but as officers progress, through their career, it becomes second nature. They are always researching and processing information, and after a while, they simply know the answers without looking them up.
3. Common Sense and Mental Agility
While being able to learn through traditional methods is critical for police officers, common sense is a must. Good deputies and police officers can read people and the atmosphere of their surroundings. They can adjust their attitude or body language in dynamic circumstances.
You may think that a situation will go one way, and it can change completely in a matter of seconds. You must be able to adapt and adjust rapidly. Officers must remain calm as mental flexibility can save their life. If an officer responds to a call with preconceived notions, he’s going to handle the incident wrong if he doesn’t observe what is going on and re-adjust accordingly.
4. Compassion and Empathy
Many people consider these skills as a weakness, but they are vital to be a successful police officer. There are times when empathy should be applied, and then there are times when officers need to be more assertive.
Deputies and officers see the worst of humanity. They become a part of the most tragic moments in the lives of the people that they help. Officers represent strength and sympathy in many critical incidents. The balance between being authoritative and compassionate is difficult. They’ll see disturbing things that they can’t turn away from such as homicide victims. Empathy and compassion are vital when relating to the family and friends of victims.
Officers must be compassionate and communicate with citizens effectively, but they shouldn’t bring that home to their family. Separating work and home life while still being compassionate and empathetic is difficult at times.
These are just a few of the necessary skills police officers should have. A trustworthy police officer approaches each person they meet with respect and knows how to apply state, local, and federal laws to dynamic situations.
Police officers represent the separation of law and order from complete anarchy. It’s a massive job to take on, and not everyone can do. They need these qualities and skills to face the challenges that they meet every day.