Law enforcement work has evolved greatly over the years – from its early introduction in Colonial America with the use of Sheriffs, who collected taxes and enforced colonial laws, to today’s sophisticated large and widespread local, state, and federal agencies. Relative to the evolvement of law enforcement work, the type of candidate that police agencies seek to fill these employment slots has also changed drastically. Today in the United States candidates for police officer positions are put through a rigorous and strict hiring process to ensure strong applicants are picked for the openings. The hiring process is lengthy and usually includes written and physical exams, oral boards, a background investigation, medical and psychological screenings, and a polygraph test. All these steps are designed to remove unsuitable applicants. I feel that I possess several character traits and leadership qualities that would help me as a sworn police officer and a leader. However, there are aspects of my personality that could be improved to better my chances at being successful in that particular line of work.
Some aspects of my character that I think would help me in a possible career in law enforcement are flexibility, intuition, patience, common sense, and I am a team player. Additionally, my leadership qualities, specifically integrity and perseverance would also benefit me in a possible career in law enforcement.
Flexibility is important in the context that you never know what you will be asked and/or required to do. Every call you go on will differ from the last in some sort of aspect. Things could change moment by moment and you have to be able to adapt to those changes to effectively do your job. Flexibility also includes being able to deal with new equipment, new procedures, administrators that come and go, and politicians that come and go. I learned very much about flexibility in the while serving as an Infantry team leader in the Marine Corps. You had to be able to adjust to changing orders and missions on the fly. I quickly realized there was no typical day while deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Learning to adjust to the situation at hand and being ready for anything played a large role in mission success and survival.
Intuition is a quality that is needed by law enforcement personnel. The ability to take in a great deal of information and calculate a conclusion based upon it is extremely important in police work. As a police officer you respond to a call, talk to victims/witnesses, collect statements and evidence, and then form an educated conclusion on what happened all in a timely manner. This conclusion may even lead to the arrest of an individual. A lack of intuition could ultimately lead to the arrest of innocent people or the release of criminals.
Another important aspect that one in a law enforcement capacity should have is patience. Chances are you are going to come across people, both who you work with and come in contact with on the street, which will require you to exercise extreme patience. Everyone has had a co-worker that you just cannot stand to be around. It takes patience to deal with this person and not create a hostile work environment. Then there are the people that you will meet on the streets that will be intoxicated or under the influence drugs.
People under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs may act in ways that will test the patience of even the most veteran and seasoned officers. However much you are tested, by some of the people you may come in contact with, it is in the officer’s best interest to approach them in a professional manner and use tact and patience in resolving these situations. Losing your patience and possibly mistreating these people, no matter how ridiculous they behave/act, is unprofessional.
These days common sense plays a large role in the policing community. Common sense knowledge is highly valued in police culture as a means of dealing with the many ambiguous situations that officers face (McNulty). Applying common sense while on the job and in your private, off-duty, life is equally important. The use of common sense will often tell you the difference between what is right and what is wrong. This practice can help eliminate problems that may arise with the use of poor decision making.
My ability to work in a team is a strength that I have learned through years of sports, employment, and the military. Being part of a team means accepting the leadership and the opinions of others regardless of your own beliefs and feelings. Teamwork is the keystone of any successful organization. Each individual must be dedicated to the whole team, be willing to act unselfishly, and communicate problems and ideas to solve them. A productive team has individuals that share common goals, a common vision and have some level of interdependence that requires both verbal and physical interaction (Sugarman).
I have many strengths that I feel will make me a strong candidate for a career in law enforcement. Yet, there are some aspects of my character that need improvement; to improve in these areas would make me an even better police officer. I tend not to be candid at times, excessively trustworthy, and often I am my biggest critic.
I have a tendency to not be candid at times because I am inclined to keep my opinions to myself. I think that a law enforcement officer has to have a certain level of assertiveness when making contact with offenders and members of the community. There is no room for being soft spoken when on patrol. This could be picked up as a sign of weakness by career criminals who have had dealings with law enforcement before and know what to look for. A sign of weakness can be enough for a criminal to try to exploit it to keep his or her freedom. To overcome this weakness I need to work on improving my self-confidence. I can improve my self-confidence skills by being more outgoing with my coworkers and in social situations. Excessive trust is another shortcoming of mine.
I tend to not necessarily believe everything from everyone’s mouth. Still, past experiences have shown that I would never dispute them. Everyone you come in to contact with will not always be the most reliable source of information. This becomes a problem when you take every word for face value or to avoid confrontation. To defeat this flaw I feel that sometimes disagreeing with people’s views or recollection of past events, when appropriate, will help me to express my own opinions. By expressing my own opinions I can set the facts straight as opposed to just accepting someone else’s misinformation.
Perhaps my greatest weakness is that I am my own worst critic. I can beat myself up more than anyone else. Only I know all of my strengths and weakness. Typically, I will down play my strengths in a modest fashion and exaggerate my weakness. I do not think it is always a bad thing to criticize yourself if you do so in a constructive manner. It becomes a problem when the self-criticism becomes too great to effectively manage your weaknesses and learn from your past experiences. To conquer this weakness I need to learn how to not be so hard on myself. The only way to do this is to first realize that I have many qualities that are strong suited for a career in law enforcement. Secondly, by pinpointing my weakness I can explore constructive ways to improve them.
As far as leadership goes, I have always prided myself on having a positive working relationship with fellow employees or teammates all while maintaining the highest possible standards for mission success. The two aspects are very important to any organization. I believe the Team Style Method of leadership is the most rewarding. A person who feels they are a constructive part of the unit is more likely to produce a higher level of output for the success and overall gain of that unit. Using this method increases both the individuals’ and the unit’s chance to prosper from the accomplishments made. In my opinion it is a win-win situation.
There are many traits that a great leader will possess. The most essential traits I feel a good leader should have are integrity and perseverance. Integrity can be defined as owning and adhering to high degree of moral values and professional standards. The function of integrity serves leaders well in the aspect that they are incorruptible and incapable of breaking the trust of those who have confined in them. Leaders with integrity must have an unwavering commitment to culturally accepted values and be willing to defend them (McCrimmon). This requires them to do the right thing even
if it is not in their personal interest and when no one else is watching them. Leaders with integrity are responsible, trustworthy, and consistent. Should a leader ever lose their integrity it is virtually impossible for them to get it back.
A second aspect of leadership I feel is very important for any leader to have is perseverance. Perseverance is the desire to continue under any circumstance that may emerge. A Master Sergeant once told me that, “You have to be at your best, even when your men are at their worst”. This quote has remained with me for many years and, to me, exemplifies the very meaning of perseverance. Someone who displays this character trait keeps their eyes on the goal and pushes themselves to accomplish the objective at hand.
I look forward to starting an exciting and successful career in law enforcement. While I know I possess many attributes that would make me an excellent officer, I realize that there are some traits that are in need of attention. I can only work to improve weaknesses I have by admitting to the problems and uncovering positive solutions to set them straight. To be successful at this task will take a great deal of dedication and self-reflection. In addition to my weaknesses, I must keep my good characteristics strong.
McCrimmon, Mitch. “What Is Leadership Integrity?” Suite101. Suite101, 11 2008. Web. 20 Nov 2012. .
McNulty, E. W. (1994), Generating Common Sense Knowledge Among Police Officers. Symbolic Interaction, 17: 281–294. doi: 10.1525/si.1918.104.22.1681
Sugarman, K. (2004) Understanding the Importance of Teamwork [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/scni13a2.htm [Accessed 20/11/2012]