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Your Written Exam: How To Think Like A Cop

Sergeant George Gody

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 mindset of a police officer.

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

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

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 physics.

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 were 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 coexist 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.

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