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Financial difficulties

Your first response to this one might be,
“Who doesn't have financial difficulties?”  
As a young person just entering your
earning years, your financial management
is going to be a learning experience.  It’s
an old phrase but an applicable one; you
simply have to learn to “live within your
means.”  There was a time when a police
department really had no interest in how
you handled your finances, but that has
changed.  Anything that negatively
reflects on you is now transferred to the
organization.

Self-perceived strengths and
weaknesses

Here’s where you really have to be
honest with yourself.  When examining
your strengths, you’ll probably over
estimate just a bit.  Not a big deal – that’
s normal.  Any over estimating you do
can be corrected when you start
evaluating the really important part of
this item:  Your weaknesses.

If you’re accepted for employment as a
police officer, you’ll have to pass
minimum physical requirements.  
Remember the word minimum.  The level
of your actual physical abilities will lie
somewhere at or above that standard.  
The higher you are above the minimum,
the more secure you’ll be in your ability
to perform as a police officer.

Height and proportional weight
requirements for police officers are pretty
much a thing of the past.  Here’s where
your evaluation of your psychological
strengths or weaknesses come into play.  
If you’re a person of considerable
physical stature, you have a natural
advantage, but you must never forget
that there’s always someone out there
who can kick your ass.  If you’re a
person of small physical stature, you
must honestly evaluate the psychological
strengths you’ll need to compensate for
your smaller physical stature.

You might respond with, “There are many
other areas where strengths and
weaknesses apply.”  You’d be exactly
right in that observation.  For example,
you could assess your abilities as a
problem solver and your skills in
conducting conflict resolution.  While
intellectual abilities are always important,
what happens when you meet a person
who has no respect or fear for intellectual
abilities?

Reasons for wanting to work in a
public safety position

Remember, all public safety positions are
not the same.  First:  The position as a
police officer is unique given your power
to arrest people denying them their
liberty.  Second: You have the ability and
power to apply deadly force.  Whatever
your list of reasons may be at the
beginning of your self-evaluation, these
two circumstances should be your first
considerations when you exercise your
self-evaluation.

Is money at or near the top of your
reasons to become a police officer?  It
certainly may be, and there’s nothing
wrong with wanting to obtain a good
paying position.  However, if money is
the primary or only reason you’re
considering a police career, you may be
ignoring other more important reasons.

When I became a police officer in 1971,
money was certainly not an item that
attracted young men to police work.  My
point is that a police career should be
something that would draw you even if
the money was not as good as it is today.

Professional goals

Here’s a hard one for me to offer advice
because of my extensive experience.  
While this may seem like an odd
statement, it comes from my knowledge
of police department politics.  You’ll be
working for government, and police
officers, like any other government
employee, must negotiate the obstacle
course of politics.  Some of you, like me,
will shun the politics only to learn that
your advancement within a police
organization will be much more difficult.

Psychologically relevant medical
history

This only applies if you have a medical
history of psychological problems or self
induced problems such as alcoholism or
drug abuse.  While your self-evaluation
may assure you that you defeated such
problems, these circumstances will remain
relevant in determining your suitability to
become a police officer.
It’s debatable how effective psychological
assessments are since you’ll encounter
police officers that will make you doubt
that effectiveness.  I’m not criticizing
psychologists or the practice of
psychology.  Anyone can understand
how difficult and complicated a medical
diagnosis can be, so why should a
psychological assessment be any less
difficult or complicated?

Self-evaluation can be the most effective
psychological assessment affecting your
decision to pursue a police career.  The
reason is quite simple – you know
yourself better than anyone, and as long
as you’re honest with yourself, you’ll
come to a very accurate psychological
assessment of yourself.

Educational history

You probably already know that most
police departments require that you have
a high school diploma or equivalence.  At
age 21, the minimum age to become a
police officer, you may even have a
Bachelor’s degree.

Let’s say that you have only a high
school diploma.  Let’s go further and say
that you received a less than adequate
high school education whether the fault
of the educators or your own lack of
interest and effort.  You shouldn't
despair, because you’re young and you
have the time to continue and improve
your education.  You have to keep in
mind that, as a police officer, you’re
going to be writing each and every day of
your career.

Employment history

At the age of 21 or so, you’re not going
to have an extensive employment
history.  If you were fortunate enough to
earn a Bachelor’s degree immediately
following high school, you might not have
any, or a minimal, employment history.  
No matter what the extent of your
employment experience may be, you
have to self examine how you responded
to direction and your willingness and
ability to complete tasks assigned to you.

For those of you who have completed
military service prior to your application
to become a police officer, you’ve
established an excellent employment
history.  Some would disagree with that
statement; however, those who would
disagree have never completed military
service.  Your military service has given
you excellent experience to work in a
disciplined and task oriented environment.

A police career is unique in that past
employment experience is not a
prerequisite for employment.  The irony
is that when you become a police officer,
you’ll be thrust into a position of
enormous responsibility.  While you will
not have any supervisory control within
the police organization, you’ll exercise
supervisory direction over countless
numbers of people depending upon
situations and circumstances.

Compliance with laws and regulations

No individual will agree with all laws and
regulations, so there’s nothing wrong
with you psychologically just because you
think some laws and regulations are bad
or unnecessary.  However, we live in a
representative republic, and all of us are
required to do our best to comply with
laws and regulations.

As a police officer, you’ll have to
recognize that your responsibility to
comply with laws and regulations exceeds
any standard applied to others.  When it
comes to your police department’s
regulations governing your conduct, you
must accept and conform to the fact that
those regulations are non-negotiable.  
Just because you’ll see some police
officers violate regulations with no action
taken against them, you must not believe
that failure by management will in any
way benefit you if you find yourself in
violation of a regulation(s).

Recent illegal substance use

Just by use of the word “recent,” police
departments are acknowledging a
declining element within American
society.  Look, nobody’s perfect, and the
proliferation of illegal drugs and the
access to them do make it likely that
more people will experiment.  If you’re
one of those who experiment, or worse
you use illegal substances regularly, you
can be certain that the continued
behavior will seriously damage or end
your police career.

Interpersonal and familial interactions

This one is really important, because how
you interact on a personal level with
friends and family will affect how you
interact with your coworkers and the
public.

Some of you will have experienced a less
than desirable childhood where domestic
violence was prevalent.  People react in
one of two ways when they experienced
or witnessed domestic violence during
their childhood and adolescent years.  
While some people will incorporate the
violent behavior into their adult familial
interactions, others will view domestic
violence as the cancer it is and do
everything in their power to eradicate it
from their adult relationships.  If you
belong to the latter group, you’ll never
have the problem of domestic violence
affecting your police career.  However, if
you belong to the first group and find
yourself in an abusive relationship,
domestic violence will always hold your
continuing police career in jeopardy.

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Copyright © 2017  Barry M. Baker  
CareerPoliceOfficer.com
Self-Evaluation
for a Police Career
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