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Why this matters:

This question is great for evaluating how well a candidate truly understands the duties and sacrifices of working for the police. Whatever police officer role they’re interviewing for, protecting the public and keeping the peace are top priorities. A great candidate will demonstrate a strong awareness of how these responsibilities tie into the job’s day-to-day tasks.

What to listen for:

  • Awareness of responsibilities required to serve and protect the community
  • Ability to use good judgment to problem-solve while patrolling, responding to calls, and making arrests
  • Willingness to demonstrate courage, whether acting as a first responder or testifying in court

Why this matters:

It’s important for police officers to follow proper procedure, but they also need to know what to do when a fellow officer violates that procedure, mistakenly or otherwise. Your candidates must be aware of the high moral standards the job requires and be capable of overcoming peer pressure, even from superiors. Candidates should understand the importance of discreet handling without direct confrontation.

What to listen for:

  • Willingness to uphold the rules by reporting the incident to a supervisor immediately
  • Critical thinking skills to determine whether a purposeful violation or accidental error occurred
  • High moral character in handling sensitive internal issues in a professional manner

Why this matters:

Police profiling requires careful consideration of the scene before speaking or acting. Candidates will be required to provide a rationale for why they chose to detain a suspect or make an arrest. Understanding the various factors that they must consider in this decision-making process is a fundamental requirement of the job that reduces liability and leads to better outcomes.

What to listen for:

  • Consideration of the severity and nature of the crime, as related to public safety
  • Assessment of the individual’s relation to others at the scene and attitude toward officers
  • Adherence to departmental policies with sensitivity to age, race, gender, and class issues

Why this matters:

A crucial aspect of policing is de-escalating situations before they can become dangerous or life-threatening. If the candidate has previous police or military experience, they will almost certainly have on-the-job examples to draw from. But their example may also come from their personal life or previous work experience — like breaking up an argument in a bar before it ended in blows.

What to listen for:

  • Core competencies in conflict resolution, problem-solving, and teamwork
  • Commitment to personal integrity and interpersonal skill building
  • Ability to maintain focus and calm under pressure, helping to ease tension in the room

Why this matters:

Creating and maintaining strong community bonds makes police work easier, ensuring that citizens are cooperative when officers approach them and feel comfortable turning to the police for help when they need it. Candidates should recognize this and show a real dedication to the people they serve, as well as the community at large.

What to listen for:

  • Upholding of personal attributes like honesty, accountability, and empathy
  • Discussion of specific strategies to create an open dialogue and build community engagement
  • Experience hosting local events, supporting charities, and forming community partnerships

Why this matters:

Unlike many other jobs, police work is a round-the-clock commitment. Emergencies can happen at any hour of the day or night, and candidates must be willing to support their team and their community when duty calls. They can still have a personal life, but some sacrifices are to be expected, and candidates must be comfortable with this.

What to listen for:

  • Demonstrated understanding that long hours and unpredictable emergencies are all part of the job
  • Strong work ethic, flexibility, and willingness to go the extra mile
  • Ability to set boundaries to maintain healthy work-life balance when necessary

Why this matters:

This question screens for communication and conflict resolution skills — which are essential for effective police work. A candidate who can comfortably navigate a disagreement between fellow officers may be better equipped to deal with other conflicts on the job, like breaking up a domestic dispute or de-escalating a standoff.

What to listen for:

  • Fairness in considering both sides of the argument
  • Communication and leadership skills in guiding parties toward a positive solution
  • Knowledge and experience in problem-solving and conflict resolution techniques

Why this matters:

By asking this question, you can get a feel for a candidate’s leadership capabilities, but also for their empathy. Following the chain of command is vital in police work, but so is recognizing when something is wrong. The worst thing they could do is ignore the issue and hope things will improve on their own, as this could put the whole team at risk.

What to listen for:

  • Communication strategies like active listening, empathy, and scheduling one-on-one time
  • Understanding when escalation to a superior is necessary to reduce risk to the coworker or team
  • Experiences that reflect perceptiveness, leadership, and situational awareness

Why this matters:

Police work can be challenging and unglamorous, so finding candidates with a genuine passion for policing is essential. You need to know that they’ll find the role fulfilling — otherwise, they may struggle to stay motivated. The best police officers are also deeply invested in helping others, rather than gaining power.

What to listen for:

  • Early interest in law enforcement, other family members in the force, or a higher calling to serve
  • Passion for helping others, improving community safety, or making people feel secure
  • Belief in the importance of mentoring troubled youth and rehabilitating ex-convicts
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