Are you the kind of guy who can shoot the wings off a fly from 600 meters? Have you mastered the Shaolin Ninja Assassin one finger death touch? Deployed a dozen times and have more confirmed kills than syphilis? That’s great…and it’s is also the best way to FAIL THE POLICE INTERVIEW.
What is this bullshit you say? You are justifiably proud of your ability to make bombs out of bisquick, and of your collection of firearms that you carry with you everywhere you go, including the shower and when you sleep. Wait…you sleep? Better not tell them about that…it will ruin your legend!
On a serious note, the law enforcement hiring process is primarily about one thing only. It isn’t your ability to knock out camels with a single punch (Come on…no Conan the Barbarian fans?), or any other tactical skills…real or imagined. Hiring in the modern world of law enforcement is about RISK. Police administrators are just that…administrators. They would have you believe they are still big bad cops, but most of them no longer know what end of the firearm to hold and are much more comfortable in a suit, sitting in a meeting than riding around in a patrol car. They’re bureaucrats and think accordingly.
Just like the business world, police administrators have to think about the bottom line. In this case it is RISK. How risky is it to hire you? Are you going to run off like a loose cannon trying to fulfill some juvenile fantasy about driving fast and getting to arrest people? Or are you a mature and thinking adult who will be able to make rapid decisions under impossible levels of stress while not killing any innocent people and not making any negative Case Law? In case you haven’t heard, you do NOT want to be the guy who makes some new case law that further restricts law enforcement authority. You also don’t want to be sued, fired and or thrown in jail. THAT is the lens that you are being evaluated through when you are in the interview.
I will cover the interview in more detail later, but for now, just remember the most important point. You are NOT A BAD-ASS! When asked you are a mature and honest person who will focus on the soft skills that you bring to the table.
So what if you really ARE a bad-ass? That’s great. Looking at your resume, that should be implied, but never focused on. Have you deployed and been in combat? Perhaps been awarded some medals for valor? That’s cool, you can mention that. But always make sure it is the SOFT SKILLS you cover. Having deployed several times (especially with a combat arms MOS), and returning home with your limbs kind of IMPLIES you know how to handle yourself. Trust me it will be in the back of their minds.
Instead of focusing on things like how many weapon systems you have trained on, focus on the fact that you have a long “history of training other personnel” or “Leadership experience under extremely difficult circumstances.” Your time in all those shit hole 3rd world countries becomes “Proven ability to communicate with diverse cultures under difficult circumstances.” If they ask if you own a firearm, tell them. But if they ask how good of a shot you are, your answer should always be something about how you are not as good of a shot as you would like, simply because you have been working on your interpersonal communication skills instead. After all…you will (In theory) receive all the firearms training you need in the Academy, but you won’t learn how to get along with the public and your peers.
And to be completely serious, the ability to communicate, having a strong work ethic, remaining calm under pressure, honesty, being on time and not being a shit-bag malingerer are the things that you are ultimately being hired for. The other stuff can be trained. That’s not to say you don’t want to prepare yourself as much as possible, but you do NOT want to scare the delicate little administrative flowers that will be making the decision on whether to hire you by focusing on those things. There is no quicker way to make a bureaucrat’s ass pucker right up than to give the impression you are some Tackleberry from the Police Academy movie.
On the flip side of this, don’t go into an interview with flowers in your hair, waving a bong and talking about how you commune with nature and abhor violence. You can…and should be confident and clear in your interview. Some interviews will give a hypothetical situation that places you in an impossible situation where the ONLY correct answer is to say you would shoot the suspect(s). This is part of the job and is a reality you should have recognized in your head long before you reach the interview. But don’t go into a long drawn out explanation about how you would crush the suspect’s spine and lovingly detail which caliber weapons you would use to make the suspect meet his/her doom. You’re applying for a modern law enforcement’s job. If you’re tempted to answer like Tackleberry, you do NOT belong in law enforcement in the first place. The name of the game is to ALWAYS USE THE MINIMUM AMOUNT OF FORCE NECESSARY.
Although also keep in mind that it really is okay to have skills that will make you a more effective cop. This whole thing is kind of a bureaucratic double speak, because the admin actually WANTS applicants who will bring a diverse set of skills to the table. And tactical skills, firearms, martial arts, etc IS valued and makes you a better cop. But focusing on these things too heavily will nearly guarantee you won’t be hired. Once you are working the road, your skills will be respected and will be considered assets. During the hiring process they can be potentially considered liabilities, depending on how you articulate yourself. In the end…be reasonable and don’t act like a dumb ass and you will be fine!
Anyway…any questions? Concerns? Don’t agree? Feel free to let me know!
Also published on Medium.