Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that between 2012 and 2022 there will be 243,900 openings for police and sheriff’s patrol officers, it can still be very competitive to be successfully recruited by a law enforcement agency.
Naturally before applying you want to make sure you’ll meet all requirements, like education/experience, age, having a driver’s license, etc. You’ll also have to pass the entrance exam, background test, a physical test and other evaluations.
But it is also important to be conscious of the key skills that law enforcement employers look for in recruits. Having these qualities will help you stand out from the applicant pool:
Writing and speaking are major components of a law enforcement career. For example, writing reports is a frequent occupational task. “[Reports] have the potential for being reviewed by other officers, by the media, involved in court cases, and reviewed by many other professionals, which is why good communication skills are so important,” states BPT’s article “Know what employers want before applying to be in law enforcement”.
In an FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Peter J. McDermott and Diana Hulse, Ed.D add that effective communication also involves interpersonal skills—such as active listening and conflict resolution—which are essential in diffusing tense encounters before they get out of control.
Connections to the Community
Many law enforcement agencies have mandates to support organizations that help those less fortunate in the community. Additionally a number of departments practice community policing. Demonstrating experience with community involvement and interacting with all walks of life make you a strong candidate.
It is also important to be familiar with police ethics, as well as to eventually have a deep understanding of the law enforcement agency’s guidelines. Ideally, employers want recruits who have morals, integrity, honesty…In other words they do not want to hire someone prone to becoming a corrupt cop.
The New York Police Department lists several qualities they look for in a Recruit Officer, including self-discipline, drive and initiative. An example of how you can demonstrate this before the recruitment process is getting in shape to prepare for the physical exam, but also maintaining that fit and healthy lifestyle. It also involves showing up to police academy on time, prepared and willing to wholeheartedly tackle each task—even those that you find most difficult or tiring.
As you prepare to apply to a law enforcement agency, assess which key skills and qualities you already have and which ones you may need to foster, through volunteering, a police cadet program, related work experience, tutorials, courses at your college or other avenues.