What makes a good law enforcement professional? Certain qualities come to mind immediately, such as strength, honesty, and the ability to remain calm under pressure. But the physical, mental, and emotional qualities and characteristics of a good law enforcement official go beyond the obvious to include physical and psychological competencies, as well as communication skills and interpersonal abilities. With these combined qualities, a good law enforcement professional will provide effective, efficient service in a courteous, responsive, and competent manner.
Physical and Psychological Requirements
A good law enforcement professional should be physically and mentally fit. Police officers perform one of the most physically challenging and dangerous jobs in the country, so physical and mental fitness will help to ensure a high probability of job success while simultaneously reducing the probability of illness and/or injury.
Candidates for law enforcement careers must pass a physical exam and drug test, and be able to perform the physical functions of the job. Good vision is an important physical requirement for law enforcement professionals. Visual acuity must be at least 20/30 in each eye (corrective lenses are acceptable), depth perception, peripheral, and night vision should be normal, and the individual should not be color-blind. Good hearing is also important; law enforcement officials should not have a hearing loss of more than 46 decibels in the 3,000 cps range. Physical stamina and agility matter, too; for example, the individual must be able to complete a certain number of push-ups or sit-ups, or run a certain distance within a specified amount of time.
Psychologically, a good law enforcement official will show no evidence of mental or behavioral disorder. The individual will be emotionally stable and exercise good judgment. He or she will adapt readily to changing situations and deal with them with a level head, using sound judgment when faced with a dangerous and stressful situation.
Effective communication ranks as one of the most important skills of any successful law enforcement officer and will contribute to good interpersonal relationships with both the public and with colleagues and co-workers. A good law enforcement officer might need to rely on effective communication to avoid injury or even death. Law enforcement officials must be able to communicate and interact with the public on matters ranging from holding an everyday conversation to calming an hysterical victim or convincing a thief to release his weapon.
A good law enforcement officer will comprehend the myriad verbal and non-verbal cues given by all participants in a given scenario. Further, a skilled officer will know how to communicate a response that is appropriate given the circumstances of the situation. Effective communication skills will allow the law enforcement official to assert him- or herself and interact appropriately and successfully in both the work and community environments – environments composed of people of diverse cultures, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Interviewing and conflict resolution skills are also an important part of a good law enforcement officer’s communications repertoire.
Commitment to Helping People
The job of law enforcement officers is to protect people and property from crime and harm. A good law enforcement officer enjoys working with people and meeting the public, and is motivated to help people when they need help the most or when they cannot defend or protect themselves. Many individuals who enter the law enforcement field do so out of a desire to help and to make a difference in their world. Perhaps as children they were raised with a sense of duty and commitment to community service. Perhaps they developed those characteristics by observing others in the field. Considering the risks and dangers involved in their daily jobs, good law enforcement officers demonstrate a continued commitment to helping people and the community.
Ability to Handle Working with Difficult People in Difficult Situations
Law enforcement officers are occasionally faced with difficult people and difficult situations. These could include confronting an angry driver on the highway, responding to a domestic violence call, or participating in a drug-related shootout. Even in such stressful situations, a good law enforcement officer will maintain his or her composure and effectively manage the situation while at the same time complying with all applicable laws, rules, regulations, and procedures.
In addition to learning and applying all job-related information and practices such as self-defense, control of firearms, proper reporting, and computer use, other qualities of a good law enforcement professional include taking risks or finding creative solutions to problems, being accountable to recognize and acknowledge when a mistake is made, and working effectively both as an individual and as part of a team. A good law enforcement professional possesses many skills and abilities, all while simultaneously upholding all the duties of the job, that is, to protect and serve the people.