How To Answer “Why Do You Want To Be A Police Officer?”

Chris Kolmar
By Chris Kolmar
- Jan. 20, 2021
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If you’re looking for a rewarding career, consider looking into law enforcement. Working in this field can utilize your mental and physical skills to impact your community positively.

Police officers have the opportunity to embed themselves deeply in neighborhoods and use their position of power to drive important change across initiatives that can truly improve a community’s well-being.

Dedicating your life to becoming a police officer is a challenging career that can transform your life both positively and negatively. And similar to other jobs on the market, police officers must interview before being accepted for this line of work.

One of the most common questions asked to potential new law enforcement officers is, “why do you want to be a police officer?”

Although this may seem like a simple question to ask, it’s one of the most important questions to answer effectively. It’s equally important to ask yourself this question before you even enter an interview room.

Below, we discuss the considerations to take before entering this line of work as well as how to answer this question in an interview setting adequately.

Why Do You Want to Work as a Police Officer?

First, you should ask yourself this specific question and understand what drew you to the profession in the first place. Take an honest assessment of why you’re drawn to the law enforcement profession.

There could be a number of different reasons as to why you’re interested in becoming a police officer, including family history or a general drive to make your community a better place to live.

This should be the basis of your response to this question and the tidbit that you lead the conversation with. You may decide to dive into your past history, such as growing up in a poor neighborhood where the police were feared, and your drive to change that perception.

You may also consider discussing your family or military background to surface already learned skills you might bring to the table.

Whatever your response, remember that the interviewer is interviewing you for a job and team fit as well. The interview will likely focus on your attitude, abilities, skills, achievements, and anything else that shows you’re a good fit as a law enforcement officer.

Every response you provide should give them insight into who you are as a person, so craft them in a way that demonstrates your strong character and responsibility.

If you are very passionate about this career, be sure to avoid any responses that may paint you as aggressive, fearful, or racially biased. If you are afraid you have any of these character traits, it may be in your community’s best interest to consider a different line of work.

Police officer interviews are unique in that you may need to reveal more about your past and character than in typical interviews.

To that end, be careful not to speak negatively about your former police chiefs or colleagues. Ensure you stay positive when you discuss past situations or interactions, even if you were frustrated or upset at the moment.

A good way to approach this common question for an interview is to sit down and think about your reasons for applying. Write them down and ask yourself what the police force means and represents for you personally.

Focus on two to three things that you can remember when you enter the interviewing room. If you have specific traits you’d like to focus on, remember that your interviewer will be interested in discussing specific scenarios, so you should come prepared.

Do your research on the specific department and organization, as well as the community. Ensure you understand what their important missions are and their priorities for the people they serve.

For police interviews, the interviewer will likely not accept a vague response, so be ready to provide proof and specific statements for all of the questions asked.

Good Reasons to Work as a Police Officer

So, what are the positive reasons to get involved in law enforcement work? There are a wide variety of benefits to entering this line of work that we discuss in further detail below:

  • Competitive pay. Police officers are an essential part of any healthy society, and their pay definitely reflects that. Law enforcement officer pay typically increases based on the amount of time they’ve been in service and with any given police force. You’ll also be eligible for overtime in most precincts.

    The biggest draw to this kind of career lies in the benefits. Police officers and their families have access to significant retirement packages, comprehensive insurance options, and other benefits.

    This line of work also offers a variety of promotional opportunities to advance your career. Depending on your police force, you may be eligible for many different tracks in this line of work.

  • Making an impact. Because police officers play such a heavy role in protecting and serving their communities, it’s no surprise that this profession can make a lasting impact on a community.

    This career also breaks you out of the typical 9-5 cubicle desk job and can allow for greater job satisfaction and purpose. For many individuals, working as a police officer is motivating, as they are serving something greater than themselves and can be sure they’re making an impact.

  • Having pride in your career. Being a police officer brings a certain amount of pride for both police officers and their families and friends. Police officers often form stronger bonds with their colleagues in a unique way that doesn’t usually touch other career paths.

    This allows for achievements to be adequately celebrated as well as deep mourning in the aftermath of tragedies. Forming a kinship bond with your fellow officers makes you proud not only of the work you do but the work your entire team participates in.

    Police officers are respected and appreciated across communities. They may sometimes be met with resentfulness, but most respect the dedication and sacrifice it takes to participate in this line of work.

  • No two days look the same. If you recoil at the thought of working a traditional desk job Monday through Friday, then law enforcement could be the right fit for you. No two days will ever look the same for a police officer as this profession constantly challenges your skills, mindset, and abilities.

    Officers can deal with things from arrests, citations, emergency calls, patrols, or court testimonies when necessary. You can also consider different career paths such as detective, air marshal, or work in a special jurisdiction.

  • Early retirement. Because of the stellar benefits offered to police officers, retirement packages are often available for early retirement. Although It’s never a guarantee and typically depends on how long you’ve been with the police force.

    Most agencies give their officers full retirement packages after about 20-25 years on the job. This can allow individuals to pursue further education or an entirely new career path if they so choose.

Reasons Not To Work as a Police Officer

So, now that we understand the benefits of becoming a police officer, we should also consider why you should not find work in this career. Consider the following before you apply for a job in law enforcement:

  • Long and thorough hiring process. The hiring process for any given officer can be long and exhausting, no matter what precinct you are applying to. Different departments and branches of government will have different standards to maintain, but the process can take anywhere from four to 12 months.

    Not just this, but you’ll be subjected to a very thorough background check, including criminal history, credit check, and previous employment. You may also be required to complete a polygraph exam, a medical, physical, as well as a fitness test.

  • Tough training. Training to become a police officer is no walk in the park. You’ll be required to attend police academy training, which is difficult both academically and physically. You’ll be required to qualify with a firearm as well as be proficient in various defensive tactics, first aid, and more.

    Additionally, you’ll need to participate in field training, which is even harder than academy training. This process would weed out individuals who may not have what it takes to be an officer. This area of applicability is heavily scrutinized to ensure all officers are ready for the job at hand.

  • Burnout. The law enforcement career path has a lot of benefits, but the long and irregular hours are not one of them. As an office of the law, you’ll be on call almost constantly, and even if you have rotating or permanent shifts, the work can be difficult on your social and family life.

    You’ll likely be asked to work late nights or early mornings, as well as holidays, weekends, and more. Fatigue for police officers is common and can also be brought on by overtime, poor sleep habits, poor diet, and of course, stress.

  • Bad habits. There have been various studies completed that link poor health and police work tightly together. Due to the strange hours, the need to be flexible, and stress, it’s no wonder police officers aren’t thinking of their health, diet, or mental health on a daily basis. The job can impact all areas of life, and poor health is one of them.

  • Heartache. Police officers see the things that the general public is privileged to keep behind a closed door. This career is certainly not for everyone and can be hard and full of heartache. Be sure that you understand what you’re getting yourself into when you apply for a job in law enforcement. This job is certainly not for the faint of heart.

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.
Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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