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Skills and Abilities

Policewoman with childCommunity policing is an important aspect of a law enforcement career. Many agencies today hire in the spirit of service, not in the spirit of adventure. In other words, agencies are looking for individuals who are drawn to and exhibit characteristics in line with the service element of policing over the prospect of excitement and adventure. And rightly so -- analysis of calls for service shows the vast majority of calls to which officers respond are not crime related.

A U.S. Department of Justice-funded research project entitled Hiring in the Spirit of Service identified the following as core competencies for law enforcement officers:

  • Ability to use good judgment and to problem solve
  • Capacity for empathy and compassion
  • Capacity for multi-tasking
  • Ability to demonstrate courage and to take responsibility
  • Ability to be resourceful and show initiative
  • Demonstrating assertiveness
  • Possess and demonstrate integrity
  • Capacity for engaging in teamwork and ability to collaborate.

Police officers with citizen How can you develop these skills and abilities?

Developing these skills comes with experience and exposure. Below are some ways to get started.

Volunteer. Volunteering with your local police department is a great place to start. However, volunteering with any community service organization can provide you with some of the skills abilities needed to be an effective community policing officer. More on volunteering.

Gain work experience. Almost any type of work experience can help you develop the skills needed to be an effective community policing officer. Whether it’s serving as an intern, working in retail, or doing clerical work, your ability to interact with others, think on your feet, and prioritize work will help you in policing. Work experiences in your community will help you better understand the dynamics of the community you may serve and improve your ability to show courtesy and respect to others in the work setting. These jobs will also help you to understand the surrounding environment and culture.

Take related courses. This could be through educational courses focused on communication or critical thinking. Understanding listening strategies and how to communicate with the various populations you will come in contact with is incredibly valuable. Critical thinking takes practice and will help you to develop better problem-solving abilities.