Police Officer Interview Questions
A police officer’s main responsibility is to protect life and property. They are assigned specific areas to patrol to watch out for criminal activities and also wait for dispatchers to relay calls for assistance.
Police officers are expected to enforce laws and ordinances and make arrests or issue citations accordingly. They write reports concerning daily activities and cases and occasionally are called upon to testify in court regarding cases they have been involved in as the arresting officer.
A police officer’s responsibilities include:
- Patrolling neighborhoods
- Writing citations, making arrests, and delivering warrants
- Writing incident reports
- Controlling traffic during times of high congestion
- Responding to potentially dangerous emergency situations
- Testifying in court to events that occurred before, during, or after an arrest
A police officer’s skills include:
- The ability to remain calm in extremely stressful situations
- Good verbal and written communication skills
- Negotiation skills
- Problem-solving abilities and the ability to make quick decisions
- The ability to adapt to situations as they escalate
Police officers are required to attend police academy training before becoming an official police officer. Entry to a police academy for training requires certain checks such as psychological tests, drug screening, and a high school diploma or GED. Admission into the police force depends on the completion of training administered by a police academy and a passing grade on the entrance examination.
Salaries for police officers range between $50K and $67K with the median being $57K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as a police officer include:
- Degrees (certifications, associate's, bachelor's, master's)
- Size and Type of the Organization
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the captain or chief you report to)
- Type and Number of Incidents Responded To
- Level of Performance - exceeding expectations, etc.
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Police Officer Interview Questions
Question: Of all of the law enforcement agencies in this area, why did you elect to apply to this one?
Explanation: This is a general or opening question the interviewer will ask to begin the conversation, learn more about your background, and collect information they can use throughout the interview. You can take advantage of this and use your answer to push the interview in a direction in which you are comfortable.
Example: “When deciding which agency I would be interested in working for, I reviewed several different organizations in this area. I looked at their makeup, the type of work they do, and their policing record. This department came out ahead in all three of those categories. I admire the department’s commitment to law and order, respect for the citizenry, and integrity of the force.”
Question: What is your strategy for getting along with the diverse people you work with in the police department?
Explanation: Police departments are made up of a variety of different personality types. While noone can get along with everybody, you should have the skills and strategies for getting along with your fellow officers and avoiding conflict. Police officers work in teams in stressful situations, so supporting each other is critical for this role.
Example: “Like most people, I sometimes find it hard to get along with people who have different personalities than mine. However, I’ve learned that as a police officer, I must be able to relate to my fellow officers, the leadership team, and the public we serve. I take great pride in my ability to be tolerant of other people’s views and personalities and not let them cloud my judgment, especially in stressful situations where people’s lives are at stake. I have developed several coping methods that help me to achieve this.”
Question: What would you do if you arrived at a crime scene and discovered the prime suspect was another law enforcement officer?
Explanation: Second only to the police officer’s ability to do their job is their integrity. Both the department and the public place a great amount of trust in the police. Once this trust is violated and the officer loses their integrity, they become a burden to the police force and will eventually be removed. When answering this type of question, you must be honest while providing an answer that demonstrates your integrity.
Example: “I place a high value on my integrity. I also believe that no one is above the law. If I were to discover that a fellow officer was suspected of committing a crime, I would process them like any other citizen. The only special consideration I would provide them would be to try to protect their anonymity while investigating the crime. This would enable them to return to duty if they were found innocent of having committed the crime.”
Question: If you were issued an order by a superior which was against regulations, would you obey it?
Explanation: Police offices are expected to follow orders without question. This often helps save their lives and the lives of others. However, no one is infallible, including senior officers. Another key trait of a police officer is their ability to use good judgment. Your answer to this question should reflect your willingness to follow an order without question, your ability to detect when an order may be questionable, and the steps you would take if you believed the order was wrong.
Example: “While I have been trained to follow orders without question, I’ve also been trained to obey the regulations of the police department. If a superior issued an order by which I knew was against the regulations, I would first verify the order with them and point out that it violated police department regulations. If they insisted that I follow the order and the consequences of which would not harm any other individual, I would comply. I would then report the incident to senior command and request that they deal with the situation.”
Question: If one of your family members committed a minor crime that didn’t impact anyone else, would you report it?
Explanation: This is a follow-up question to several of the previous questions. Each of them sought to confirm your integrity by asking situational questions. Since integrity is a key element of a police officer’s duties, you can anticipate several questions about this topic throughout the interview. Maintaining a consistent theme in your answers and not being tempted to reply that you would do something expedient is vitally important to your success in the interview.
Example: “I should reiterate that no person is above the law, and one of the things I’m most proud of is my integrity as a police officer. Having said that, if one of my family members committed a minor crime that had no impact on others, I would still be obligated to report them. Doing otherwise would compromise my integrity. Even if nobody found out, it would affect me and my ability to do this job.”
Question: How would you react if you believed a senior officer pocketed cash found at the scene of a crime?
Explanation: You probably recognize this as another question about your integrity. As mentioned earlier, you will be asked many questions like this during an interview. When preparing for an interview, you should practice this type of question so your answers are consistent throughout the interview. Another technique would be to provide a false answer and see how you felt about it. This should convince you to continue to answer these questions to demonstrate your honesty and willingness to make difficult decisions to protect your integrity.
Example: “If I were at a crime scene and witnessed a superior officer placing cash in their pocket, I would confront them about it. I would ask them if they did this as a temporary measure before placing the money in an evidence bag. I would assume they would acknowledge this and request that I provide them with a bag. I would then make a note of this in the crime scene report which would allow them or anybody else reading the report to interpret the incident as they felt best.”
Question: What would you do if you and your partner were transporting a violent offender to jail and spotted a serious traffic accident while en route?
Explanation: This is an operational question which seeks to understand how you go about doing your job. An interviewer may ask many operational questions about different aspects of this role. When answering them, you should be brief and to the point. Interviewers will ask additional questions if they need more information or want to explore the topic in more detail.
Example: "If we came across an accident while transporting a violent offender to jail, I would first radio the dispatcher, requesting both additional police and paramedics to the scene. One of us would then exit the vehicle to examine the wreck and see if we could provide any immediate assistance. The other officer would remain in the vehicle with the offender. Once additional police units arrived, we would update them, then depart the scene and continue transporting the offender.”
Question: How would you de-escalate a situation in which a person was acting hostile toward you but had not yet become violent?
Explanation: In today’s environment, the escalation of law enforcement incidents has become a critical issue. The general public has made clear their feelings about how police often escalate a situation, making it more violent than it has to be. You should be able to discuss your methodology for de-escalating incidents you respond to, relying on the training you have received.
Example: “A great deal of our training is about how to de-escalate incidents. The methods I use include speaking to the suspect in a calm but authoritative voice, providing them with clear instructions they should follow, and if necessary, using nonlethal methods to subdue the suspect until I gather additional facts and determine if an actual crime was committed and whether the suspect should be arrested or released.”
Question: What steps do you take as an individual police officer to ensure a good relationship between the police and the citizens in your precinct?
Explanation: Relationships between law enforcement agencies and the general public can become very tense. While a majority of citizens support the work police officers do, there are some elements that will challenge law enforcement agencies whenever possible. Taking proactive steps to remove this tension and develop good relationships with the citizens you protect is a critical skill every police officer needs to have. Your answer should focus on what you do, not what the department does as a whole.
Example: “I always strive to develop good working relationships with the citizens within my precinct. I do this by acting as a member of the community as well as a law enforcement officer. I make every effort possible to show my personal side. I also frequent the businesses I protect and stop to talk to people whenever I can. An example of this was inviting myself to a pickup basketball game at the local park while on my lunch break. The comments I received from other players and the crowd watching us were all positive. Each time I see this group now, they smile and wave at me.”
Question: When you retire and look back on your career as a police officer, what will you be the proudest of having achieved?
Explanation: This question asks you to project forward to the end of your career. Hiring managers not only want to select candidates who are qualified for the role but are also willing to grow into additional responsibilities and have clear career goals. By answering this question, you provide them information about what you seek to achieve after you are hired and throughout your career.
Example: “When I retire and look back on my career, I hope to be known as a police officer who first and foremost cared deeply for the people to whom I provided service. The core element of being a police officer is helping other people. I will strive to accomplish this by doing my job so that everyone would benefit, even those committing crimes. If I can protect citizens while helping criminals reform and not commit additional crimes, I will have done my job successfully. Any accolades or awards I receive during my career should simply be acknowledgments that I’ve accomplished this goal.”
Additional Police Officer Interview Questions
What was it that drew you to pursue a career in law enforcement?
How well do you deal with stressful and potentially dangerous situations?
How would you describe your relationship with your last police chief?
Describe a time when you made a mistake on the job. How did you rectify it?
How do you prepare yourself to go on duty?
What IT skills do you have that will help you in this role?
What would you change about the last department you worked with?
What made you leave your last department?
If you knew a superior was acting unethically, how would you approach the situation?
How would you handle a fellow officer acting unethically?
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