Being a police officer comes with a great deal of responsibility. Cops are more than just enforcers of the law and protectors of law-abiding citizens, they need to be model citizens themselves. This can be challenging in the high-stress atmosphere of street-level police work, but it’s more important in such citizen-facing circumstances than anywhere. Here’s some advice from experienced police about what it takes to be a great cop.
“Always be calm and cool. A bad attitude guarantees a bad outcome.”
Those are the words of former police officer and law enforcement administrator Neill Franklin. This advice is valuable for both police and the people with whom they interact. The realities of being a police officer dealing with everyday people is that few things go by the book. People will say and do unexpected things, but a police officer should respond to all situations with the same cool head. Likewise, people interacting with police should be reminded to remain calm. Fear, anxiety, and anger can turn a routine stop into a dangerous situation.
image via Flickr by diana_robinson
“Lead with a ‘do as I do’ frame of mind, not just a ‘do as I say’ attitude.”
Retired constable Peter Yan has that to say of police behavior, both on and off duty. Even minor infractions like traffic violations set a bad precedent for those who trust the police to uphold the law. If law enforcement officers don’t follow the law, it’s hard to convince everyone else that the laws exist for the common good. When adopting the badge, an officer of the law must embody the value of the law.
“Academy is important, but it won’t teach you everything you need to know to be a cop.”
So says veteran officer Link Polk. Police need to know the laws and regulations governing their communities. While it may be impractical to store an entire legal library in one’s mind, a firm educational foundation is the difference between a confused cop and thoughtful officer of the law. This foundation may start with a criminal justice degree online, volunteer work in social services, or even an informational interview with an experienced officer. Remember: on the beat, there’s no such thing as too much knowledge.
Learn from Your Mistakes
“Mistakes can and should be made. It’s okay for rookie officers to not know it all, but it’s not okay for them to stop learning.”
Officer Jody Kasper, writing for Police Magazine, gave this sound advice. Police can’t be expected to be perfect, just like anyone, but with such a sensitive job, self-improvement can make a difference in people’s lives. Whether it’s poor evaluation scores, reprimand from senior officers, or self-identified slip-ups, every mistake must be a one-time issue. The best cops didn’t come right out of the academy so sharp, but they all took their lessons to heart.
The great part of joining a police department is that every new officer is surrounded by mentors. The most valuable wisdom will come from experienced cops, and they’re usually more than happy to share it with rookies who have a genuine desire to be model officers of the law.