A police officer is responsible for maintaining order and keeping people (and property) safe. They enforce the law, investigate crimes and suspicious incidents, and support victims of crimes.
Police officers wear many hats in their role, from interviewing suspects and witnesses to providing evidence in court, and they must communicate with members of the public, people who have committed a crime, and people who have been victims of a crime. They provide support for major events and incidents, directing traffic and pedestrians when necessary.
Police officers also provide first aid assistance to people that have been injured in a road traffic collision or in other ways.
It takes a combination of different skills and abilities to be a successful police officer, and the right candidate needs to demonstrate that they have what it takes in this multifaceted role.
What should a police officer be able to do?
Typically a police officer will perform a patrol, sometimes using a vehicle, other times on a bicycle or on foot. During these patrols, they will be on the lookout for suspicious activity, any crimes being committed, or for a person that might need to be arrested for a warrant.
If a crime has been committed, a police officer will need to investigate what has happened, collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses, victims, and potential suspects. They might be required to chase and apprehend a fleeing suspect.
Police officers also need to be able to respond to road traffic collisions, both to investigate the accident and to ensure that traffic is directed away from the scene. Police officers will need to be able to provide first aid to people that have been in an accident.
As part of the emergency services, police officers will need to work with other agencies such as fire and ambulance to provide help when needed, whether maintaining a perimeter for a fire or supporting the ambulance service in dealing with a violent or aggressive patient.
Police officers need to be able to provide evidence to support a successful prosecution against someone who has committed a crime. This includes collecting physical evidence, writing thorough and effective reports, and providing testimony in court.
Skills to look for in a police officer
Finding the right candidate for a role as a police officer means looking for specific skills that are needed to complete the job, including:
- Active Listening: a police officer needs to be able to listen properly to victims and witnesses so that they can get a full picture of what has happened. They need to show empathy and understanding while noticing non-verbal cues.
- Critical Thinking: this skill includes complex problem solving and making the right decisions based on logical, reasoned judgement. Police officers will often have to take different stories into consideration to be able to decide what actually happened in a specific incident and apply critical thinking to come to the right decision.
- Negotiation and Persuasion: working with members of the public and dealing with emotionally and physically volatile situations needs great persuasion and negotiation skills. Police officers might have to give bad news or get someone to act or behave in a certain way.
- Social Perceptiveness: understanding situations and scenarios mean 'reading the room' and getting a feel for how the people involved are feeling and reacting. Social perceptiveness feeds into a service orientated mindset, where victims and witnesses feel supported.
- Microsoft Office Suite: gathering evidence and investigating crimes can only work with excellent record keeping, and writing reports is a large part of the police officer's role. Most police services use the Microsoft Office Suite as their word processing software, so skills here are important.
Useful abilities for a police officer
Police officers need certain abilities and aptitudes to be successful, in both investigating crimes and dealing with members of the public, victims, suspects, and witnesses.
These might include:
- Logical Reasoning: decision making using logical thought processes ensures that investigative steps are made thoroughly, taking all the available information into account to come to the right conclusion about what has happened.
- Oral Expression and Comprehension: a good police officer is able to understand what they are being told, but also able to express themselves in a clear and concise manner.
- Written Expression and Comprehension: police officers will need to be able to read and understand various sources of information, from dense law passages to witness statements. They also need to be able to create written information like reports that include all the necessary information, in the right tone.
- Reaction Time and Stamina: police officers need to be physically fit to deal with parts of the role, and they need to be able to react quickly in a volatile situation. Stamina and reaction time are important abilities for the physical nature of the role.
- Multitasking: as there are so many facets in the role of a typical police officer, candidates need to have the ability to successfully multitask to get things done quickly and efficiently.
Which soft skills tests could I use to hire a police officer?
Soft skills are inherent abilities that a candidate needs to be able to demonstrate to be successful as a police officer.
They are often difficult to assess through other recruitment processes, so tests offer quantitative data on the soft skill level of the applicant. Soft skills assessments use scenario-based questions that allow a candidate to demonstrate how they would use each soft skill to deal with a similar situation in the workplace.
Some soft skills tests that might be useful to hire a police officer include:
Teamwork: this assessment is based on scenarios where teamwork is the right course of action to take to solve a problem. The teamwork test places emphasis on the way a candidate works with others to get a job done.
Accountability: police officers need to take responsibility for the decisions that they make and provide evidence and information to support their actions. The accountability test demonstrates how each candidate reacts to problems and holds themselves accountable at each stage.
Communication: active listening and communication skills go hand-in-hand for a police officers; they need to be able to understand and be understood to be successful.
Decision Making: exercising good judgement and understanding all the information that is presented to make the right decision is an essential soft skill for a police officer when there can be a lot of data to read, understand and analyse.
Which technical or aptitude tests could I use to hire a police officer?
Great police officers have a range of aptitudes and technical skills, and there are some tests that you could use to ensure that candidates have these before taking them further in the application process.
These might include:
- Inductive Reasoning: the inductive reasoning assessment makes a candidate spot patterns in unfamiliar information to come to the right decision.
- Deductive Reasoning: deductive reasoning assessments are used to see how well a candidate can come to the right decision based on specific information given.
- Verbal Reasoning: a verbal reasoning assessment provides a candidate with written information that they need to read and understand in order to answer specific questions.
- Microsoft Word: as the word processing software of choice in many industries, potential police officers can demonstrate that they have the right level of technical skill in using this program.
Our recommended test battery for a police officer
With all these skills, aptitudes, and technical abilities in mind, choosing the right battery of tests to assess each candidate to match them to the police officer role can seem quite complicated. However, we have put together a recommended test battery that you could use to find the right person for the job:
- Verbal Reasoning: this is a multiple-choice assessment where the candidate is provided with a passage of text. They need to quickly read, understand and analyse the presented information in order to answer the question, and there is no need for previous knowledge as all the data needed to choose the right answer is provided in the text.
- Logical Reasoning: the logical reasoning assessment asks candidates to look at a series of images or shapes that are in a sequence, spot the pattern or rule that governs the sequence, and use that to choose the missing item from the multiple-choice options provided. This logical thinking needs clear thought processes and good judgement.
- Decision Making: in a similar way to the logical reasoning assessment, the decision making test is all about good judgement, but the layout of the questions is slightly different. Candidates will be given a fictional yet realistic work-based scenario, with several different courses of action, and they will need to use their decision-making skills to select the most appropriate answer.
- Communication: another really essential soft skill for a police officer is communication, and in the soft skills test the candidate is presented with work-based problems that need to be solved. The candidate needs to consider the possible courses of action provided with communication in mind, and select the answer that demonstrates their excellent communication skills.
We have specific job knowledge tests and more information about using tests to help in hiring a police officer, such as our police officer test guide.