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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To become an effective police officer, you must be physically fit. Without any planning, you will encounter physically challenging situations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, is policing the right career for me?
We have broken down this question into eight core elements, including:
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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