On any given day, you may hear the words strong, brave, and heroism to describe the best qualities of a police officer. While these three words often do apply, so many other physical and mental attributes make up the qualities of a good police officer.
Yes, a good police officer must have the tactical skills to perform their duties. Still, the job of law enforcement is not just about performing a teardown of a rifle and cleaning the barrel of an AR 15 upper receiver until it gleams. Here are a few qualities a police officer must have to separate them from average to good.
One of the least thought of skills when describing a member of law enforcement is their ability to communicate. A good police officer typically writes up hundreds of reports a day. When they do, the wording needs to be concise, accurate, and precisely detailed.
Many of us don’t think about communication qualities required in law enforcement, but a poorly written report can make or break a case when the details go before a judge. Not only does a good police officer need to communicate effectively, but a good police officer must understand how specific laws apply to the report they’re writing.
A good police officer must have the ability to communicate verbally, whether it’s interpersonal or with the community at large; effective verbal community is a must. With excellent communication skills, police officers can build a rapport and establish trust with other officers and the community they serve regardless of cultural differences.
Good communications skills are not just the ability to write and talk well. A good police officer must know how to listen, truly listen when someone is talking to them. Effectively listening and engaging with people demonstrates that the police officer cares.
When citizens and fellow officers begin to feel that a police officer cares about them, they are more likely to cooperate and demonstrate a willingness to return the communication favor.
Now more than ever, a good police officer must possess empathy and compassion for the citizens they serve each day. One without the other is often the difference between simple law enforcement and being a good police officer.
A good police officer must understand that the incidents they respond to are real-life situations where the people experiencing the issue are people who have just had their world turned upside down.
These citizens may be going through unbelievable hardships. The last thing they need is someone who doesn’t have the capability or the inclination to put themselves in the same circumstances emotionally and compassionately.
What makes a good police officer is the ability to apply empathy and compassion to any situation. People who have just lost a loved one or suffered a life-changing event need a show of authority and calming sympathy.
These citizens need to know that the responding officer demonstrates genuine empathy and compassion. By their actions alone, a good police officer will prove they have walked several miles in the shoes of the people they have sworn to protect.
The Art of Negotiation
One of the best skills a good police officer must have is the ability to negotiate properly. Of the many dangerous situations a good police officer may experience, the willingness to negotiate rather than rush into action is vital.
It is also one of the most difficult to master and requires a significant amount of active listening. A good police officer can often diffuse a critical situation merely by carefully listening to what is said and providing structured feedback that tells the other person they genuinely understand the problem.
Confrontational situations such as barking orders or rushing to judgment will only make the conditions worse. Many law enforcement offices make the mistake of attempting to brute-force their way through an incident.
A good police officer will always seek an opportunity to negotiate first before attempting to tactical resolve the issue.
Along with skillful negotiation, a good police officer must possess the ability to make decisions quickly and in a decisive manner. Even during a routine traffic stop, a good police officer must read the warning signs and react accordingly. Is the offender holding a phone or a pistol? Are they simply reaching for their wallet to produce a driver’s license?
It only takes a split second to make the wrong decision.
A good police officer understands that it may not be what the officer expected to find when responding to a situation. A good police officer must learn to change gears, alter the way they’re thinking and remain calm under stress.
It’s safe to say that without mindful agility, a police officer will always respond with pre-conceived notions of what they expect to find at the scene.
During these types of responses, when a police officer doesn’t have the skill to change their mindset instantly, they will lose the ability to observe their surroundings as they should. When this happens, a police officer will almost always get it wrong.
Constant Learning Curve
A good police officer will tell you that they don’t know what they don’t know and that being a good police officer means being eager to learn continuously.
Although most police gain tremendous amounts of training before becoming police officers, a good one will tell you that there is more to learn on the job.
For a good police officer, each day is one of constant change. Criminals change their tactics; different drugs hit the streets, and the rule of law shifts constantly.
A good police officer takes classes and attends seminars to stay abreast of the world of law enforcement. Sometimes, a good police officer will pay for these classes themselves.
They understand the need for knowledge even if the department their assigned to can’t fund the training. Whether paid by their department or with their own money, a good police officer realizes they must be a jack-of-all-trades and constantly learning.
A good police officer is eager to learn and continue learning through their entire career.
Practicing mental agility, having an eagerness to learn, and possessing empathy and compassion, and negotiation skills are only a few of the qualities of an officer in law enforcement. Not having all of them may not stop someone eager to serve but possessing all of them guarantees the public they’re being protected by an outstanding police officer.