13 Skills for a Police Officer
Updated March 10, 2023
Whether currently employed as a police officer or looking to apply for a position, it's important that you understand the unique skills that can help you succeed in your job role. Police officer skills allow law enforcement professionals to contribute to public safety within a community. By taking the time to review beneficial skills for police officers, you can maximize your job performance and stand out to employers during a job search.
In this article, we define police officer skills, review examples of skills for police officers, discuss how to improve these skills, demonstrate their use in the workplace and outline how to highlight your police officer skills.
Related: How To Become a Police Officer
What are police officer skills?
Police officer skills are a combination of technical and interpersonal skills that allow police officers to complete their job duties effectively. This includes completing investigative work, working as a team, communicating with the public and paying attention to small details.
Common skills for police officers
Here are some beneficial skills commonly used by police officers:
Active listening is the process by which an individual uses nonverbal cues like body position, smiling, head nodding and small verbal gestures to acknowledge their attention is on the speaker. Active listening is an important skill for police officers to have as it enables them to engage with members of the public and other law enforcement professionals effectively. It also ensures that they notice important details and information to relay to detectives, emergency response teams or legal teams in courts.
Persuasiveness is a person's ability to convince someone else about the right course of action. This occurs through good verbal communication tactics. Police officers use persuasiveness on a daily basis to encourage members of the public to follow their instructions and obey laws. They also use persuasiveness to deescalate situations and prevent criminal activities.
Attention to detail
Attention to detail is the process by which someone can identify small details, correct errors and notice changing patterns in behavior. When working as a police officer, it's essential to be able to pay attention to detail as it allows you to identify potential evidence, prevent criminal activity and identify the correct car or suspect linked to a crime.
Physical stamina refers to someone's ability to run or walk long distances. It also refers to someone's ability to lift heavy objects. Police officers need to have excellent physical stamina as they need to be able to chase and restrain suspects, patrol extensive areas by foot and when necessary, climb over fences and other obstructions to complete their job duties.
Community awareness represents the process by which individuals understand the surrounding community. This includes understanding resident demographics, poverty levels, crime rates and other factors that influence communities. When police officers have good community awareness, they have the ability to interact with members of the community in an effective way. It also helps them support local initiatives that benefit community members and ensures they understand the types of crime that occur in the area.
Critical thinking is the ability for an individual to make important decisions within a short time frame. Police officers need to have excellent critical thinking skills as they may need to make quick decisions that affect the health and well-being of themselves and members of the public.
Interpersonal communication is the process by which someone can adjust their communication strategies and language to connect with others and help them interpret information. Police officers use interpersonal communication on a daily basis to ensure clear communication between themselves and other officers with different personalities. They also use interpersonal communication to help members of the public understand laws and regulations.
Morality refers to an individual's ability to live by a moral code and uphold moral practices in their daily life. Police officers should have good morality as it allows them to make decisions with good judgment. It also ensures that they uphold the criminal justice initiatives within their unit and the broader community.
First aid and CPR
First aid and CPR includes a variety of skills and practices that allow an individual to assess health concerns, treat spinal injuries or perform life-saving CPR on those who need it. Police officers do respond to emergency situations where a member of the public gets injured or ill. This is usually because an ambulance crew hasn't been able to get to the scene yet. Therefore, it's important that police officers have standard knowledge to treat patients before paramedics and EMTs arrive.
Empathy is the process by which an individual can imagine what another person experiences. This allows them to provide emotional support. For police officers, empathy is an important skill to have, regardless if they're speaking to a suspect, victim or someone with a mental health condition. When a police officer has empathy, they can positively impact the lives of others.
Teamwork is a skill that enables someone to work well with others to accomplish tasks. Police officers work with other officers they do and don't know on a daily basis. Their ability to take on a new role and adapt to a team environment impacts their ability to help the public and apprehend suspects.
Assertiveness is the process by which an individual demonstrates their authority and encourages those around them to complete a certain task. Police officers need to be able to be assertive when speaking with suspects, directing crowds of people or enforcing laws.
Courage refers to someone's ability to complete tasks that would otherwise be dangerous or frightening. Police officers need to have courage in order to apprehend suspects and help members of the public get to safety in dangerous situations.
How to improve police officer skills
There are a variety of ways you can improve your skills as a police officer. Here are some strategic methods for improvement:
1. Volunteer at community events
A major part of a police officer's job includes serving the community and looking for ways to make it a safe place to live or work. Similarly, police officers engage with members of the public on a daily basis to provide assistance and solve problems. For these reasons, volunteering at community events allows you to get to know those in your community and practice communicating with people of different professions or backgrounds.
2. Review local and state legislation
As police officers enforce local and state laws, you should make an effort to develop an in-depth understanding of them. This can help you increase your confidence and also allow you to help members of the public develop their own understanding of the law.
3. Ask for feedback
If you currently work as a police officer, you can ask for feedback on your job performance from your immediate superior and your partner. They should be able to give you valuable insights into the areas you excel in, and the areas to focus improvement efforts. If you don't currently work as a police officer, ask for feedback from your current employer, friends and loved ones.
4. Enroll in online courses that target skills
You can access an abundance of online courses that allow you to learn more about certain skills and how to improve them in your daily life. These might include attention to detail, decision-making, verbal communication or prioritization skills.
5. Gain relevant experience in security and safety
If you don't currently work as a police officer, obtaining a job as a security guard or public safety officer allows you to expand your experience working with the public, solving problems and monitoring suspicious activities.
Police officer skills in the workplace
Here are some helpful tips on how to demonstrate your skills as a police officer in the workplace:
Research community events and crime data. Taking the time to learn more about what's happening in your community and the times of crime that occur allows you to enhance your vigilance throughout your shift. This is also useful, as members of the public may ask you questions about local events and how to get there.
Practice active listening when speaking to members of the public. Active listening helps the speaker feel valued, and it also encourages you to think about what the other person says. It also encourages you to ask clarifying questions and take notes. This is especially helpful when interviewing victims or witnesses at crime scenes as you can gather important information that may lead to an arrest.
Look for ways to help your partner. Teamwork is an essential skill for police officers as they work with a partner and other officers on a daily basis. Therefore, think about how you can make your partner's job easier and what you can do to support them. This can help you build strong professional relationships that ultimately support your daily productivity.
Related: 19 Jobs With the Police
How to highlight police officer skills
Here is how to showcase your skills as a police officer when applying and interviewing for positions:
Police officer skills for resume and cover letter documents
When applying for jobs with police stations, it's important that you highlight your skills in your resume and cover letter documents. This allows employers to determine how you compare to their employment needs. To ensure you provide the right skills, create a skill section on your resume and review the job description to select the skills or qualities you possess. You can also highlight your skills by incorporating them into your professional experience section.
For example, if you list teamwork as one of your skills, you can highlight it by saying: "Collaborated with other officers in my unit to enforce alcohol policies in the downtown area." Additionally, your cover letter provides a format where you can discuss your skills more in-depth.
Police officer skills for the job interview
During police officer job interviews, employers want to evaluate the skills and qualifications that a candidate could attribute to a police role. Make sure you review the skills section on your resume prior to your interview so you can develop examples if asked about them.
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