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  1. Types of Law Enforcement Agencies
  2. Real People. Real Stories.
  3. Take a Virtual Ride-Along
  4. Types of Sworn Law Enforcement Careers
  5. Civilian Law Enforcement Alternatives
  6. What is Community Policing?

Discover Policing in your state

Skills and Abilities

Community policing is an important aspect of a law enforcement career. Many agencies today hire in the spirit of service, not in the spirit of adventure. In other words, agencies are looking for individuals who are drawn to and exhibit characteristics in line with the service element of policing over the prospect of excitement and adventure. And rightly so -- analysis of calls for service shows the vast majority of calls to which officers respond are not crime related.

A U.S. Department of Justice-funded research project entitled Hiring In The Spirit of Service identified the following as core competencies for law enforcement officers:

  • Ability to use good judgment and to problem solve
  • Capacity for empathy and compassion
  • Capacity for multi-tasking
  • Ability to demonstrate courage and to take responsibility
  • Ability to be resourceful and show initiative
  • Demonstrate assertiveness
  • Possess and demonstrate integrity
  • Capacity for engaging in teamwork and ability to collaborate.

“Visit the COPS Media Center for a webcast with King County Sheriff Sue Rahr on how her agency’s involvement in the “Hiring In The Spirit Of Service” program helped aid organizational transformation and drastically improved recruiting and retention.”

How can you develop these skills and abilities?

Developing these skills comes with experience and exposure, but there are some ways you can start now:

Volunteer. Volunteering with your local police department is a great place to start. In fact, volunteering with any community service organization can provide you with some of the skills abilities needed to be an effective community policing officer. More on volunteering.

Gain work experience. Almost any type of work experience can help you develop the skills needed to be an effective community policing officer. Whether it’s serving as an intern, working in retail, or doing clerical work, your ability to interact with others, think on your feet, and prioritize work will help you in policing. Work experiences in your community will help you better understand the dynamics of the community you may serve and improve your ability to show courtesy and respect to others in the work setting. These jobs will also help you to understand the surrounding environment and culture.

Take related courses. This could be through educational courses focused on communication or critical thinking. Understanding listening strategies and how to communicate with the various populations you will come in contact with is incredibly valuable. Critical thinking takes practice and will help you to develop better problem-solving abilities. The Community Policing Learning Portal offers free, easy-to-use, interactive online community policing courses and resources.

To read the full “Hiring in the Spirit of Service” publication from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Service, click here, or to view the accompanying video cast, click here.