Career in Law Enforcement Police Test Study Guide

Is Policing the Right Career for Me?

Jun 12th, 2021
is policing the right career for me

Is Policing the Right Career for Me

Becoming a police officer is not a small decision. Many police officers make the case that policing is more of a lifestyle than a career; something you do day-to-day and month-to-month.

One of the most common questions we get asked is: is policing the right career for me?

Many aspiring officers are unsure whether the career suits their expectations. Of course, it would be wrong to derive any impression of policing from TV shows. Too often, these shows depict policing in a very inaccurate light.

That said, there are certain questions that all aspiring police officers should ask themselves. Below, we have put together precisely these questions – and you need to think about these questions in detail.

Question 1 – Defending the Public Interest

As a police officer, you must put the interests of the public first – even if that includes family and friends. Ultimately, the law is what you are sworn to protect.

  • How do you react to this; about the need to defend the public interest at all times?
  • Is it something you would actively enjoy, or do you think it would be a challenge?
  • Is it something that you are not interested in at all?

Ultimately, every day is different for police officers. You will encounter many different groups, and it’s imperative that you treat each group and individual with respect. You must leave any personal bias, if it exists, at the door.

Question 2 – Public Trust

The general public place trust in the police service and assume that law enforcement will always act to challenge actions and behavior that contravene the law.

  • Are you comfortable with the prospect of challenging actions and behavior when you know them to be wrong?
  • Are you uncomfortable with this, but appreciate the need to do it?
  • Is it something you would not rather do?

Police officers must have both the confidence and integrity to challenge actions that undermine or are counter to the law. Again, this is the trust that the public places in police officers and officers must meet this duty.

Question 3 – Physical Ability

To become an effective police officer, you must be physically fit. Without any planning, you will encounter physically challenging situations.

  • What is your attitude to fitness? Is it something you positively enjoy developing, or is it something that you find difficulty and uninspiring?
  • Do you need assistance growing your fitness level, or do you already have a thorough knowledge of how to develop this?
  • Is fitness something that you are not interested in?

To fulfil their daily duty, law enforcement officers must be physically fit. This is a prerequisite, which is why it is tested during both the police officer test and during the police academy.

Question 4 – Work Flexibility

Police officers do not work 9am to 5pm jobs. Shift work is part and parcel of what it means to become a police officer. Often, this means working at unsociable hours – including during public holidays, at nights, and during weekends.

  • How do you think about these unpredictable, unsociable work patterns?
  • Is this something you are more than happy to work with, or is this a sticking point or a notable disadvantage to how you want to live your life?
  • Is this something that you have not given a second thought to?

Police officers must become accustomed to difficult work hours. They must have the flexibility to work at hours counter to how they would like to live. This means spending more time away from family and friends. Officers must decide for themselves whether this is something they are comfortable with doing.

Question 5 – Working Under Pressure

Even though police officers work as part of a team, there will be situations where you will need to act on your own initiative. This may involve making serious decisions, such as the need to deploy deadly force.

  • Are you confident in your ability to make difficult decisions under pressure?
  • Are you the type of person who would rather defer decision making to another member of the team?
  • Do you hate making decisions under pressure?

Confidence is key to becoming an effective police officer. The more confidence you have over your own decision-making capacity, the better you will become accustomed to the many daily challenges that come with this career.

Question 6 – Harrowing Scenes

Police officers routinely handle hallowing and difficult scenes. For instance, this may include attending the scene of an accident or breaking bad news to a family who must be informed they have lost a loved one.

  • Are you capable of keeping composure under intense pressure?
  • How comfortable are you with the prospect of breaking bad news on a relatively routine basis?
  • Are you bad at handling these kinds of distressing situations?

As part of your police officer training, you will be taught techniques to handle distressing situations. That said, it’s difficult to know what to expect given how random situations develop. Police officers must be aware of, and to professionally handle, these cases as and when they arise.

Question 7 – Paperwork

Police officers must keep accurate and up-to-date paperwork on reports and other forms of evidence. Many aspiring police officers are unaware of just how much paperwork is involved, and the need to keep attention-to-detail.

  • Are you an organized person, and how do you handle paperwork?
  • Are you aware of how much paperwork is involved, and how important this work is in relation to evidence/court appearances?
  • Is paperwork not your thing?

Very few people actively enjoy paperwork. That said, it is an important part of becoming an effective police officer, and aspiring candidates should be aware of this and be prepared to keep accurate and timely records throughout their career. Incident report writing, too, must be done with accuracy and diligence.

Question 8 – Communication

Communication is key. This relates back to the last question about paperwork, but it also extends to other aspects of the career – such as testifying in court.

  • How would you rate your communication skills – both written and oral?
  • Do you enjoy communication, or is it something that makes you nervous?
  • Would you struggle under the pressure of testifying in court?

These are the kinds of communication skills you must consider. Communication also plays a central role in the police exam. For instance, it is included in the paragraph comprehension test, spelling and grammar tests, and as well as the oral board exam. The interview team will be assessing your ability to communicate ideas in an effective, clear, and timely manner.

Take Home Message

So, is policing the right career for me?

We have broken down this question into eight core elements, including:

  • Defending the Public Interest
  • Public Trust
  • Physical Ability
  • Work Flexibility
  • Working Under Pressure
  • Harrowing Scenes
  • Paperwork
  • Communication

We asked key questions relating to each of these. What you need to do is to establish, on the whole, whether policing is the right career for you. These questions inform the broader picture about what policing is like in the real world, and not from false and misleading impressions you may have gained from TV shows or movies.

If you have broadly answered positively to each of these eight questions, then it may well be the case that policing is the right career for you. If not, you may need to consider an alternative career. Competition for places in the police academy is high, and only the highest scoring applicants at the police test will make it through. Those candidates with a fleeting interest in the career will be weeded out by this process.

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