Growing up, kids are often gifted toy police cars that light up in red and blue, and they often think of police officers as superheroes in uniforms. Many young people grow up with aspirations to become those heroes — to pursue it as a career path and have an intrinsically rewarding job.
But not everyone is suited for this line of work. Some aspects of the day-to-day work of police officers can be physically demanding and stressful. Even when working as a traffic officer, these positions have high rates of injuries, and it is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S.
Law enforcement officials are local public servants who work to protect and serve their communities. Police officers have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives by the role they fulfill. However, it can be dangerous, and the amount of power it entails should only be entrusted with those who are ready to handle it.
Before considering a position in law enforcement, consider the realities of the job as well as the ideal personality type for the position to determine if this career path is right for you.
Consider Your Personality
The demanding and dangerous nature of many law enforcement positions work best with specific personality types. If you’re familiar with the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment, you may already know your personality type and which positions you might be suited for. If not, it may be a good idea to take some time out of your day to complete the assessment to help you determine if law enforcement positions will mesh with your personality.
According to the MBTI assessment, the personality type best suited for law enforcement is the ISFJ personality, which stands for people who score high in introversion (I), sensing (S), feeling (F), and judgment (J). People with this personality type are considered defenders and protectors. They are naturally altruistic, kind, and engaged. While they score high in introversion, they are analytical and good at creating strong social relationships. Their openness to new ideas, receptiveness, and strong people skills make them ideal for law enforcement positions.
While this personality test is considered a fairly accurate judge of personality and character, each person is different. It can provide a good guideline, but overall, not every person with a ISFJ personality type should pursue a position in law enforcement. Similarly, if you are a different personality type and you’re interested in law enforcement, you should simply consider how well the following qualities fit with your personality, as they are important for officers to possess:
Due to the nature of being a first responder, law enforcement officers are often involved in some of the most stressful, frightening, and difficult situations that people in their community go through. In order to tactfully handle these situations, it’s important for police officers to be able to console victims and their families.
In emergency situations, law enforcement is required to interact with witnesses and suspects while undergoing large amounts of stress. It can be difficult for some individuals to do so respectfully and without losing their patience.
Officers who are naturally compassionate have a greater capability of addressing the emotional needs of others while they do their job, which can help calm civilians down and defuse situations. This is where the job can become rewarding for those who want to help people in their communities — and where it can be particularly difficult for officers without a strong sense of compassion.
Along those same lines, as a police officer, you are constantly working with other people, which means you need good people skills. In a workday, you may have to interact with people in many different situations. Some of these may be stressful, while others may be seem mundane and unnecessary. These scenarios can become tiresome for just about anyone, but it’s less likely to affect you if you enjoy being around people.
People who communicate easily with others will have a better time trying to get to the bottom of any given situation and will be naturally able to put people at ease.
Good Communication Skills
A large part of the job as a police officer involves gathering information and filling out reports. Officers with good communication skills are better able to carry on a conversation until they get all of the information they need to understand the situation fully, which can then be noted on a report. This helps to avoid missing any information that could be vital to the high level of accuracy needed for police reports.
Successful communication involves active listening and being able to articulate your thoughts well to others in order to avoid confusion in high-stress scenarios. Missing a detail or being misunderstood at a critical moment could result in the situation going less than optimally.
Remain Calm in Difficult Situations
This might be the most important quality for a police officer to possess. Many people tend to freeze up during dangerous or high-stress situations, as this is often a normal bodily response to scary moments. However, successful police officers are gifted at using critical thinking skills under any conditions. Problem-solving skills, good judgement, and quick decision-making are all traits that come in handy for situations that law enforcement regularly finds themselves in.
Certain emergency situations may require law enforcement to gauge a person’s reaction and to be able to persuade and negotiate with people who are considering committing crimes. Remaining calm can help an officer make the right moves during tricky situations.
Enjoy Serving Others
Although law enforcement is a rewarding job that comes with a lot of power, it’s not the most glorious job out there. As public servants, officers work to serve their communities in situations that are not always heroic or important. Sometimes, officers are called to check up on minor problems between community members, and while these may seem like minor issues, the way law enforcement handles situations determines the amount of trust a community is able to have in their local police officers.
Dangers of the Job
As first responders, police officers are often on the front lines of emergency situations that may be highly dangerous. This puts them in the way of danger on a regular basis, which can induce more anxiety than some people can handle. Police officers are called to respond to situations involving people who are intoxicated, holding weapons, or who are threatening others. They are the people who stand between violent criminals and civilians.
Even when the situations aren’t particularly dangerous, being out in the community and helping others all the time can lead to some risky scenarios. Earlier this year, a police officer near Scottsdale, Arizona, was struck and killed by a distracted driver during a traffic stop as he stood outside the driver’s side car door. Police officers are often required to stop vehicles in the middle of traffic when they see drivers speeding, driving with their lights out, or engaging in other risky behavior, which can be dangerous.
Other Crime-Fighting Careers
If your personality doesn’t reflect enough of these personality traits that are important for police officers to possess, it doesn’t mean you can’t get a job fighting crime and helping people. There are several important unconventional positions that relate to law enforcement and are just as important in solving cases and helping innocent victims.
These can include penologists, who work with prison rehabilitation programs to prevent offenders from reoffending; counselors, who work to help people dealing with difficult emotions to prevent violent reactions; and forensic specialists, who examine evidence left at crime scenes to get a more complete view of how crimes were carried out.
You can also help victims of crime get the justice they deserve. For example, the current lack of sexual assault nurse examiners is resulting in a lack of vital services for sexual assault victims. Due to the shortage of these practitioners, there is a backlog of about 200,000 rape kits nationwide that remain untested. These kits could lead law enforcement to hundreds of thousands of sexual abusers that remain out in communities, possibly committing more crimes and hurting more people. This could be a great position for someone who wants to help fight sexual assault in their community.
Not everyone is fit for a career in law enforcement. It requires compassion, patience, good communication skills, and bravery. These positions can be extremely rewarding for people who truly wish to protect and serve their communities. However, if this position isn’t for you, consider one of the other many rewarding career options that are engaged with law enforcement. These positions can be fulfilling, and enlisting as an officer help you truly give back to your community.