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

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-

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

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

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
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

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

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 © 2019  Barry M. Baker  
"Self-evaluation can be the most effective
psychological assessment affecting your
decision to pursue a police career."
~ Barry M. Baker
for a Police Career