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 danger.

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,

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 priority.

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 duties.  

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
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
3. Apply Common Sense, Police Priorities, and Police
4. Don't jump to conclusions. Don't make
assumptions. Weigh all the facts before making a
5. Make your decision.
5. Review your decision -- do they make sense
within the framework of the three fundamentals?
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 questions.

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.
Police Exam

Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

Copyright © 2019  Barry M. Baker