Strong cognitive abilities are usually considered a very important and positive trait to seek when hiring new employees. However, one police department decided not to hire those who scored too high on a cognitive skills exam on the grounds that people who are too intelligent will not be satisfied with their job as a police officer and will end up quitting (Naish, 2013). This of course is a controversial policy that resulted in at least one lawsuit.
For this assignment we will be looking at individual characteristics that may predict job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job performance for police officers. Being a police officer is a demanding job that requires strong physical capacity, sharp mental capacity to deal with difficult and life threatening situations, and strong interpersonal skills in order to effectively work with the communities they protect and serve. The issue of what traits to look for in police officer recruiting is a controversial one.
Review the background materials on individual traits, personality, and attitudes such as job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Then read these articles on law enforcement recruitment with the issues in the background materials in mind:
Naish, R. (April, 2013). Too clever by half. E.Learning Age, 8. [ProQuest]
Means, R., Lowry, K., & Conroy, D. (2011). Hiring: Background investigation, part 3. Law & Order, 59(3), 12-13. [Proquest]
Reaume, S. (2009). Improved hiring for child protective investigators. Law & Order, 57(2), 19-20,22,24. [ProQuest]
Now suppose a police department has hired you as a consultant to come up with an exam to assess personality and other traits of applicants to the department. The department is looking to hire applicants who meet the following criteria:
- Are likely to have strong job satisfaction and organizational commitment to the police department after they are hired.
- Will be able to work effectively under stressful and sometimes life threatening situations, can make good decisions under pressure.
- Will be able to present a positive image of the police department in the communities they serve and maintain strong relations with community leaders.
Using what you’ve learned in the background materials about personality traits such as the Big Five Personality traits and factors that influence job satisfaction and organizational behavior, come up with a four to five page paper addressing the following issues:
- Do you think cognitive abilities should be part of the exam? Do you agree with the police department mentioned in Naish (2013) that there should be an upper limit to cognitive abilities, or should the department try to hire those with the highest cognitive abilities? Consider the concepts of ability testing in Chapter 3 of Nair (2010) as part of your answer.
- What personality traits do you think will best predict a police officer’s ability to handle stressful situations in the field and make decisions under stress? Consider the Big Five traits as well as any other personality traits that you read about in Chapter 6 of Nair (2010). Be specific about what traits the department should consider and why these traits will be associated with an ability to work under stress.
- What personality traits will best predict an ability to work cooperatively with their coworkers as well as with members of the community they serve? Again, be specific about which traits the department should consider and why these traits will be associated with a good ability to work with others. Use Chapter 6 of Nair (2010) as your source of information about Big Five and other personality traits to consider.
- Answer the assignment questions directly
- Stay focused on the precise assignment questions, don’t go off on tangents or devote a lot of space to summarizing general background materials
- Make sure to use reliable and credible sources as your references. Articles published in established newspapers or business journals/magazines are preferred. If you find an article on the internet, make sure it is from a credible source.
Here is the solution:
In an effort to develop and build a competent and able police force, cognitive ability of recruits cannot be ignored. This is because police work demands specific physical and cognitive skills and abilities to be performed effectively. As such, potential police officers being recruited should be measured in terms of their cognitive abilities to determine whether they are a good fit for the positions available within the police force. While testing recruits for cognitive abilities is essential, it may also limit the ability of the police force to consider other important factors such as physical ability, and the ability-job fit of said recruits. For this reason, I do not confer with the fact that there should be limits imposed on requisite cognitive abilities among potential pol ice officers. This is because of a two main reasons. First, excluding a number of candidates based on the fact that the show exemplary cognitive ability denies the police force and opportunity to have the best possible officers it can, which may eventually work towards watering down the quality of officers that the force recruits.
Secondly, other individual factors must also be considered before candidates can be ruled out on grounds of exemplary cognitive ability. Issues such as physical ability and the congruency of the individual’s ability and the job description (the ability-job fit) must also be considered (Nair, 2010). If an individual demonstrates the requisite capabilities in these two factors, then exemplary cognitive ability should be used to deny them the opportunity to be recruited by the force. In this way, the police force can always ensure it recruits well-rounded individuals, seeing as no limits are imposed on the standards recruits are required to meet. From this approach, the force is likely to recruit individuals that will demonstrate commitment and job satisfaction, much to the pleasure of the police force.
Personality Traits and Stressful Situation
For many police officers, learning to handle stressful situations especially while in the field is a valuable skill that can potentially decide whether the officer lives or dies. In the field, police officers have to contend with endless high pressure situations, many of which also include the real possibility of life loss. In this respect, police officers that are recruited must possess specific personality traits that will allow them to comfortably adapt to the vast array of situations and dangers that they are exposed to in the field (Barrick, Mount, & Li, 2012). Moreover, these personality traits will effectively guide their decision-making processes, allowing them to make the best decisions to handle the stressful situation and protect their lives as well.
In light of the Big Five traits, three are essential to a police officer’s work in stressful and high pressure situations. Additionally, these traits serve to allow for the making of logical and clear decisions that make police work effective while still ensuring safety of officers. The first trait is adjustment (Naish, 2013). This possession of this trait allows officers to react in the best possible way emotionally, such that their emotional responses do not interfere with carrying out police work, especially in the field. Recruiting officers that are stable and confident is essential to the efficacy of the force (Nair, 2010). Seeing as most officers are armed, and that they may regularly confront high pressure and dangerous situations in the field, a stable and confident officer is the best possible accomplice to police work. Such officers are likely to approach dangerous situations very calmly and confidently. This prevents them from making mistakes that may end up claiming civilian or their own lives. Individuals that are on the lower end of this spectrum are likely to be unstable, and greatly compromise police activity.
Secondly, intellectual openness is a vital trait for police officers. Possessing a high degree of intellectual openness allows officers to be original, curious, and imaginative in the carrying out of their tasks. This trait is most valuable in the field, and in planning efforts aimed at mitigating crime. In the field setting, police officers are forced to combat offenders that may display a varying degree of traits ranging from complete control to utter impulsivity. It is the duty of officers to respond accordingly to such offenders, and develop strategies of handling such situations on-the-spot. While officers are often coursed on handling such scenarios, no two scenarios share the same circumstances or are perpetuated by the same characters, hence the need for imaginative approaches when dealing with such scenarios. Intellectual openness allows officers to improvise (John, Robinson, & Pervin, 2011), devise plans, and implement them while in the field in a short span of time. This ability has bene credited with saving many lives.
Third, officers need to display conscientiousness as individuals. The ability of officers to be dependable, organized, and methodical in their approach allows them to operate within the confines of the law, while still leveraging their skill and expertise to best tackle the issues they face (Naish, 2013). Coupled with high self-esteem, this combination of traits in an officer allows them to develop appropriate plans, and follow through on them, while displaying a high level of confidence in their ability and their plan (Nair, 2010). This conscientiousness prevents officers from making impulsive decisions that can easily endanger their lives as well as those of civilians. In essence, a combination of the above-mentioned traits allows police officers to make sound judgements in the field, even while working under a great deal of stress and pressure.
Personality Traits and Cooperation at Work
Police officers exist to protect the general populace, and ensure their safety from possible harm. As such, police officers that are recruited must demonstrate the ability to work with other colleagues, as well as members of the public in their efforts (Wolff & Kim, 2012). Seeing as this is essentially a people-based profession, officers must possess the requisite people skills that are necessary to making them effective when engaging with individuals in the course of their work. Three main traits that officers should possess include intellectual openness, agreeableness, and sociability.
Intellectual openness is important in police work because it allows officers to develop greater appreciation of many aspects of the society, which plays a significant role when said officers work with the general public. Their appreciation of diverse issues may allow them to easily bond with members of the public (Nair, 2010), which may work well in the event that the officer requires certain information from said members. By establishing a connection between him or herself and the public, police-civilian cooperation in that case is likely to increase. In the same manner, it serves to prevent police officers from making statements that may offend a particular section or group of the public. Given that officers are public servants; their neutrality is essential to their work. Appearing to choose sides could very easily stifle police-civilian relationship, which may be detrimental to performing police work since many officers rely on public cooperation to effectively combat crime.
Agreeableness and sociability work hand in hand insofar as police work is concerned. For many years and to some demographics in society, the police force has long been feared and characterized as oppressive, which greatly impairs the image of the police force, in addition to decreasing police-civilian cooperation. Having officers that are agreeable and sociable allows them to easily adapt to various situations as they see fit (Nair, 2010), and in particular when they are not working in uniform. These traits improve the likelihood of police officers building networks of contacts and informants, who are vital to much of the work that police officers conduct (Wolff & Kim, 2012). This also allows officers to blend into the society seamlessly when they need to, and especially so when they are carrying out important police work that may be undercover or covert in nature.
It is also worth noting that emotional intelligence is a critical personality trait in police officers. The ability of officers to consider the feelings and emotions of the general public or of suspects is at the core of controlled police work. Officers should demonstrate a strong ability to react to conditions, and individuals in a relaxed manner, and that they are always considerate of the emotions and feelings of others. This trait is fundamental towards differentiating between dangerous suspects and harmless civilians, as well as ensuring objectivity within officers is guaranteed. The presence of officers that essentially lack emotional intelligence is detrimental to the quality of service that they will offer to the great public. As such, officers must possess emotional intelligence, which can greatly enable them help their colleagues, and civilians in overcoming grief in death-involved cases. This not only facilitates coordination between officers and the public, but also contributes towards better police service delivery.
In this way, the efficiency of police officers and efficacy of the police force as a whole is greatly improved, which directly contribute towards a safer and more protected society. This, in turn, affects other aspects of the society, which contribute towards the general improvement of the society, and in a manner that facilitates progress and development. For these reasons, the consideration of personality traits during the recruitment of police officers cannot be ignored. In this case, I would recommend that the exams offered to recruits greatly test for personality traits that are likely to facilitate the recruitment of officers that will display high levels of commitment, job satisfaction, and a string ability to work under stress and pressure. Through the above-mentioned ways, workers can develop a strong sense of cooperation with fellow workers, much to the benefit of the general public.
Barrick, M., Mount, M., & Li, N. (2012). The Theory of Purposeful Work Behavior: The Role of Personality, Higher-Order Goals, and Job Characteristics. Academy Of Management Review. http://dx.doi.org/10.5465/amr.10.0479
John, O., Robinson, R., & Pervin, L. (2011). Handbook of personality. New York: Guilford.
Nair, S. (2010). Organisational behaviour. Mumbai: Himalaya Pub. House.
Naish, R. (2013, 04). Too clever by half. E.Learning Age, , 8. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1355487256?accountid=45049
Wolff, H. & Kim, S. (2012). The relationship between networking behaviors and the Big Five personality dimensions. Career Development International, 17(1), 43-66. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13620431211201328