Know what employers want before applying to be in law enforcement

(BPT) – With the economy improving, more job opportunities are appearing, giving today’s students openings to show prospective employers their skills and professional talents. However, the job market is still competitive, and students need to know – and then acquire – the skills prospective employers want.

In the law enforcement industry, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts demand for police officers and detectives will increase 5 percent through the year 2022. This growth will make jobs available, but applicants must expect competition for these jobs.

Having knowledge of what traits and skills law enforcement agencies across the country want in candidates will help students strongly compete for open positions. Carl Cooper, chair for the Criminal Justice Program for Westwood College’s Chicago O’Hare Airport Campus, shares background information provided by members of Westwood’s program advisory council as well as training officers and supervisors from the Chicago Police Department, Harwood Heights Police Department and Franklin Park Police Department:

Writing and communication skills for law enforcement

Report writing is an important part of the job for law enforcement officers, and departments are looking for officers who can communicate well in those reports. They have the potential for being reviewed by other officers, by the media, involved in court cases, and reviewed by many other professionals, which is why good communication skills are so important. What may surprise some applicants is that these writing skills are exactly that – often handwritten. Many departments don’t have the high-tech computer systems found in the detective shows on TV, making computer skills less important than effective communication skills, both written and oral.


Police officers may face many ethical issues on a daily or weekly basis, and how an officer behaves in these situations could affect an individual, business or even the community as a whole. Westwood College requires all criminal justice students to complete an ethics course to ensure they’re prepared for the law enforcement working environment.

Community involvement

Many police departments require their officers to live within the community. Officers involved in the community are more effective in their careers.

“Students enrolled in the Criminal Justice program at Westwood College are shown how effective the community involvement is during their tenure at Westwood,” Cooper says. “For example, this past holiday season, students worked with the Franklin Park [Ill.] Police Department to collect toys for 13 adopted families in the community. Students also helped officers wrap and deliver the toys, seeing first-hand the community connection those families made with the department.”

Physical fitness for law enforcement applicants

Applicants shouldn’t be surprised that physical fitness is a requirement for most positions. Physical fitness prior to and during the testing process is critical if you want to get the career of your choice. Students wanting to be competitive for those open positions should begin additional physical training on their own.

These helpful hints about the law enforcement market, and what’s expected of candidates for jobs, were designed to help candidates have an edge when applying for those open positions. And even with the job market improving, that edge is important to getting the best position possible.

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