5 Often Overlooked Qualities You Need to be a Great Police Officer
You’ve always enjoyed the thought of helping others by serving your community and keeping criminals off the street. You’ve considered becoming a police officer, but you want to be sure you’ve got what it takes to succeed in such a prestigious position.
When asked about the qualities of a police officer, most people will list adjectives such as strong, brave or heroic. These qualities are definitely in the job description, but there are a handful of lesser-known abilities that the best police officers possess.
We summoned seasoned law enforcement professionals to help us understand some of the overlooked abilities that distinguish an average officer from a great one. You may be surprised to learn you already possess some of the most important qualities of a police officer.
5 surprising qualities of a successful police officer
1. Writing & speaking skills
You’re always extremely thorough when writing letters or emails. And when you relay a story, you’re sure not to leave out any details – painting a vivid and accurate account of what occurred. You’ll be happy to hear that these communication skills can be leveraged in a law enforcement career. In fact, they can set you apart from the crowd!
"The ability of an officer to write a detailed & accurate report may be the difference between a suspect serving time for his or her crime or being set free."
“The ability of an officer to write a detailed and accurate report may be the difference between a suspect serving time for his or her crime or being set free,” says Officer Justin Eddy, a graduate of Rasmussen College’s Law Enforcement Training Academy.
That attention to detail your friends make fun of may finally come in handy. Additionally, your ability to communicate clearly will help you earn the trust of the community in which you’re serving.
“Interpersonal communication skills are important because they allow officers to develop a good rapport with the community, with fellow officers and with those from diverse cultures,” says Eileen Carlin, state program coordinator for the Rasmussen College School of Justice Studies.
2. Empathy & compassion
In the past, you may have considered your compassionate personality a drawback when it comes to pursuing the tough work of being a police officer. You’ve learned when to show empathy and when to provide tough love with your children, siblings or friends. What you may not have considered is that much of an officer’s work requires the ability to relate to those going through hardships and show compassion, while still remaining professional.
“You will find yourself inserted into the most tragic and chaotic moments of people’s lives,” says Charles Redlinger, former officer and co-founder of MissionX. “Their world will be upside down and you will need to be a compassionate, strong authority figure. You will be the symbol of both calm and sympathy.”
Not only will your empathetic personality help you relate to the public, it can also become the driving force behind your work. Redlinger recalls his years as a homicide detective, saying the compassion he felt for the victims’ families helped motivate him to solve the crime and bring them closure.
Perhaps you’ve seen yourself talk a friend or your own child ‘off the ledge’ by helping them find solutions instead of simply reacting. You have a way with talking your way out of a problem and convincing others to act appropriately. These skills would fall under the umbrella of negotiation—one of the vital qualities of a police officer.
“A police officer many times finds himself in confrontational situations and using his words can be his best tool,” says Eddy. “Being able to negotiate can deescalate a situation and keep it from getting physically violent.”
Redlinger adds that negotiation skills not only protect the general public, but other officers involved as well. “Officers working patrol duties are constantly responding to 911 calls for service. It is in these vital moments upon the first officer arriving that negotiations skills will prove useful.”
If you’re a person who always follows through, who performs top-quality work whether or not a superior is present, then you already possess one trait that officers cannot be without: integrity.
"Integrity is a fundamental trait required for police work & quite possibly the most important."
“Integrity is a fundamental trait required for police work and quite possibly the most important,” says Redlinger. He and Eddy both agree that this is what allows the public to put their trust and confidence in their law enforcement officers.
Why do citizens allows officers into their homes as strangers? Why do they feel safe stopping their car for an officer in a dark alley? Why are judges confident in taking an officer’s word when seeking a search warrant? Why are officers given the benefit of the doubt when testifying in court? Redlinger says it all comes down to one quality – integrity!
5. Physical & mental fitness
If your someone who enjoys a morning jog, an occasional yoga session or challenging crossfit class, these are a good signs that you care about your overall well-being, another essential aspect of being a police officer.
“As an officer, you will have to chase people on foot, you will have to climb over fences, you will get into car crashes and you will have to fight people… sometimes more than one at the same time,” says Redlinger. Needless to say, staying physically fit isn’t really an option.
Redlinger also emphasizes that police officers need to be mentally fit as well. The nature of the job can cause a lot of stress and negative emotions to build up and keeping them pent up can be hazardous. He recommends getting in the habit of “opening up” to colleagues, family members or even professionals to avoid burnout.
Are you up to the task?
Now that you’ve read about some important qualities of a police officer, are you starting to feel better equipped than you thought? If you could identify with some of the scenarios mentioned above, you’re well on your way to becoming a respected member of the police force.
All you’re really missing now is the tactical knowledge and training that will get you started. Learn how the Rasmussen College Criminal Justice Program can prepare you to start employing your great qualities for the greater good of your community.
Hungry for more info about what it takes to join the criminal justice field? Check out this video featuring expert insight and advice!