Preparation for judgment / situational
test questions on the police written test
may seem daunting, but in reality, you
need to capture only one thing -- the
mind set of a police officer.

Thinking like a police officer is not simple,
yet the elements that make up a police
officer’s mind set are simple,
straightforward and support effective,
correct actions and decisions in
situational dilemmas.

Preparing yourself to view situational
questions with the mind set of a police
officer involves establishing a solid
analytical foundation based on three

1. Common Sense
2. Police Priorities
3. Police Hierarchies

When these fundamentals are combined
and applied to police situational
questions, they become a single, skilled
viewpoint that ensures the most effective
and equitable actions and decisions.
Using these fundamentals as your
primary information filters; you can
approach any situational problem and
determine an effective and appropriate
course of action.
Common sense is knowledge acquired
through trial and error, experience and
commonly accepted animate and
inanimate behaviors, and the laws of

For example: Is it safer to talk to
someone involved in an auto accident in
the street or on the sidewalk? Common
sense indicates: Sidewalk. If you're
knocking on someone's door, would you
stand in front of the door or off to the
side? Common sense indicates: Side. If
you're pursuing a traffic violator at a high
rate of speed through downtown traffic,
do you continue the pursuit or let him
go? Common sense indicates: Let Him
Go. The risk of injuring innocent people is
too high versus upholding the law by
stopping a traffic violator.

Another example: What would you do if
you saw a naked man walking down the
street with only a cell phone in his hand?
Arrest him? If so, on what charge? You
should first ask questions and determine
what happened. He may be a victim of a
crime, so don't jump to conclusions.     

In police work, and in police situational
test questions, using common sense to
evaluate the situation means basing
actions and decisions on knowledge that
is generally common to everyone, but is
occurring in a situation that involves a
need for police action.

Common sense should temper your
reactions, allowing you to control the
urge to jump to conclusions before
gaining all the available facts. Often the
set of circumstances seen at first glance
seems to warrant a certain conclusion,
however, common sense allows us to see
where circumstances simply could not co-
exist in certain situational conflicts.

Police Priorities are defined by each law
enforcement department in particular,
but can also be identified in general for
the purposes of preparing for police
situational test questions.

Assessing a situation and the information
pertaining to it requires relying on your
common sense and using Police Priorities
to determine the most effective,
appropriate course of action.

The most important Police Priorities will
normally fall in this order:

1. Protect Others -- Citizens, victims,
fellow officers -- assist and protect
people who are endangered.

2. Secure Public Order -- Whether on
your beat or during a critical incident --
keep the peace.

3. Uphold the Law -- Enforce, arrest,
investigate, protect crime scenes,
preserve evidence.

4. Provide Non-Emergency Assistance --
To non-injured victims, the elderly,
neglected children, lost or stranded
people, the mentally ill, the homeless –
those in distress, but not imminent

5. Maintain Order On Your Beat -- Check
your beat for suspicious activity.
Investigate suspicious persons, potential
hazards, etc. Know your beat by
becoming familiar with the streets, the
buildings and the people, especially the
criminal element.

6. Maintain Traffic Flow -- Report and
ensure defective or damaged traffic
signals and signs are repaired or replaced
– direct traffic safely and effectively until
signs and signals are in place.

Police work continually brings officers face
to face with situations that can be
fraught with conflicting values. Police
priorities are set up to support every
officers decision-making capabilities so
actions are determined based on
accepted values and department-
designated priorities.  

To further support every officer in
making effective decisions, every police
department has in place a well-defined list
of Police Hierarchy.
Police Hierarchy establishes importance as
regards to rank and authority. It will
remind you of the Police Priorities list, but
the value system behind the Police
Hierarchy involves the parameters of
orders, regimens, policies, and
regulations -- and how an officer
operates and defines his decisions for
taking action within those parameters.

Generally, a departments' Police Hierarchy
list will be as follows:

1. Protect Life and Limb -- Your first
action should always be a response to
those things that pose a threat to
anyone’s safety and well being:
performing CPR, first aid, calling for an
ambulance, etc.

2. Obey Orders -- Emergency or non-
emergency situations demand an officer
obey orders. The only acceptable
exception to this is when an order
interferes with the primary directive:
protecting life and limb.

3. Protecting Property.

4. Maintaining Assigned Duties -- Your
effectiveness is compromised if an
assigned duty is not maintained,
regardless of a seeming mis-use of skills
or experience.

For example: You are assigned to a
specific area during an emergency
situation and ordered by your supervisor
to stay at this location. But, by leaving
this location you can help a seriously
injured person and possibly save that
persons life. What would you do? You
are justified in choosing to leave your
assigned area to help the injured person,
even though you are disobeying the
supervisors order -- provided that
leaving your assigned area will not put
other lives in danger. Always remember
protection of life is the number one

Another example: You are ordered to
guard a prisoner. Another officer is
assigned to write the arrest report. You
are a better report writer than the other
officer. If you write the report, both you
and the other officer will be able to return
to street patrol sooner. What would you
do? Do you watch the prisoner or write
the report? Answer: you watch the
prisoner. Obeying an order is a higher
priority than maintaining your assigned

Every police officer operates as part of a
team effort. This effort becomes most
efficient when all participants operate
under the same set of rules and the
same hierarchy list. Rank and authority
procedures established in the Police
Hierarchy list ensure that the department
operates as a whole and that individual
officers make decisions within judgment
parameters based on historical
experience and professional consensus.

Recommended techniques for answering
police judgment/situational questions:

1. Pay close attention to the information
you are provided.
2. Read carefully and thoroughly. Ask
yourself questions -- is there anything
that is a threat to life or limb or is there
anything that needs immediate attention?
3. Apply Common Sense, Police Priorities,
and Police Hierarchies.
4. Don't jump to conclusions. Don't
make assumptions. Weigh all the facts
before making a decision.
5. Make your decision.
5. Review your decision -- do they make
sense within the framework of the three
6. Trust your instincts.

The majority of police departments set
clear parameters for many types of
situations. But, because of unforeseen
situations officers face on a daily basis,
these parameters cannot cover every
possible type of situation. That is why
law enforcement agencies test your
practical judgment and common sense so
intensely. It is also why it is so important
to know the priority lists used by police
agencies before you take the written
test. You must know what they consider
the order of importance before you can
successfully answer police situational

With careful consideration and thought,
you can bring these three defining
fundamentals to play in your preparation
for police situational test questions. You
can develop your police mind set and
learn to think like a police officer.
by George M. Godoy
Police Written Exam
How To Think
Like A Police Officer
Sergeant George Godoy (Ret.) is a 22
year police veteran.  During his police
career, Sergeant Godoy served for 5
years as a police recruitment specialist
where he personally tested over 1,000
potential police recruits.

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Copyright © 2021  Barry M. Baker  
Police Exam
Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide to a Career
in Law Enforcement
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for a Successful Police
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