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Tips for succeeding in policing

Whether you’re already on your way into a career in policing or considering a degree in the field, there are several things you can do in order to reach your full potential. We discuss some of the essential skills and knowledge you’ll need to succeed in a career in policing below.

By Grant Longstaff. Published 27 March 2024.

Effective communication strategies for police officers

Communication skills for police officers is a vital part of policing. As a police officer you’ll interact with people every day and from all walks of life. You’ll speak with colleagues, suspects, victims, and witnesses and, whilst the nature of the conversation will differ, developing effective communication skills will make it easier to navigate the discussions. Active listening, empathy and understanding, diplomacy and patience are all valuable skills to hone. You’ll also need to practice your nonverbal communication – how you act physically can help shape a conversation – and you’ll need to remain professional, no matter how difficult the dialog might be.

Develop critical thinking skills in law enforcement

Policing is unpredictable. Your work will change daily, so developing keen critical thinking skills will be crucial. What is the best course of action with a suspect? Have you considered the safety of yourself and others? You’ll need to make decisions in the blink of an eye. By understanding the legalities of a situation, considering the potential risks, and ultimately viewing incidents objectively, you’ll develop your ability to make informed decisions more effectively.

Stress management techniques for police professionals

As an officer you’ll face difficult situations and challenging scenarios, and the work can become stressful. Once you learn to identify these situations and potential challenges, you’ll be better prepared to navigate them. In addition, practicing self-care outside of work can help negate the effect of these emotional encounters. Whether it’s mindfulness, hobbies, exercise, sleep, seeking support from your colleagues or mental health professionals, it’s important to find an outlet for coping with stress in policing.  

Building trust and community relationships

If you can build trust and nurture positive relationships within the community you serve it can help make your work a little easier. You could use community programs or meetings to help establish these relationships. Listen to what people have to say and try to help with any concerns they might have – a reassuring conversation could be all someone needs. If you can address issues and take ownership of them, you’ll likely build a stronger bond with the community.

Staying safe on the job: Essential practices for police

Safety is paramount as a police officer. Each force will have their own guidance on officer safety and its imperative you adhere to these. Using your skills to deescalate potentially harmful situations, remaining vigilant, having full awareness of an unfolding situation, and knowing what your fellow officers are doing can all help to ensure your own safety.

Career advancement tips for law enforcement officers

There are plenty career opportunities once you’ve joined the police. You’ll usually have to spend a set period as a police officer before being given the opportunity to train in a variety of different specialisms – such as firearms or dog handling training – this is a great way to build your skillset. You might also be given the opportunity to work with specialised areas in the force, such as investigation, intelligence, or operational support. Your advancement will likely come down to a combination of professional development, experience, and commitment to the work. Joining the Police has more detailed information on career progression within the service and could help you look at what you might want to do in the future.

Ethical decision making in policing

Ethics is a cornerstone of policing. The Code of Practice for Ethical Policing, set out by the College of Policing, states: “Effective policing is built on public trust and confidence” and “depends on a policing profession that is ethical and professional in the way that it respects, listens, responds, improves and serves the public.”

As a police officer it’s your responsibility to help maintain the ethical code set out by the force. It should be present in every aspect of your work. Take the time to study the Code of Ethics. The better you understand this, the more ethical and honest your decision making will be.  

Physical and mental wellness: prioritising officer health

Another part of ensuring your success within the police is to maintain good physical and mental wellness. We’ve already touched on managing the day to day stress the role might bring, however adopting good lifestyle habits can also help. A good diet, being well rested, and committing to regular exercise will go a long way to ensuring you’re in the best shape (both mentally and physically) for work. Finally, if you need support don’t be afraid to reach out and take it. You need to look after yourself in order to be the best at what you do.

Embracing diversity and cultural competence

We live in a multicultural society and throughout your career you’ll have to navigate the intricacies of many cultures and communities. You’ll need to operate without prejudice. Respect the people in the community and work to understand the nuances of their culture. It’s worth noting this extends beyond the public and into your workplace. You need to challenge inappropriate behaviour and attitudes and promote diversity from within.

Handling high pressure situations: Crisis management for police officers

Throughout your career you’ll be called upon to manage many emergency situations. To operate effectively in these moments, you’ll need to draw upon your training, knowledge and skills. Make the most out of any training opportunities or programs you’re offered at work, take part in crisis scenarios and role playing exercises, and draw on those skills which can help you navigate a crisis.

Reading this list might feel a little overwhelming, especially if your journey into law enforcement is only just beginning. However, it’s important to remember the training you undergo will help these attributes become second nature. It’s also one of the reasons many people choose to study policing before they join the police – it provides an opportunity to develop effective policing strategies and techniques, learn how the justice system works and build your knowledge from the ground up.


Are you the future of law enforcement? Our BSc (Hons) in Professional Policing could be your first step into the service.