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A Pit Bull on a Bad Day

March 16, 2009

So what is your personality like? Easy going, amenable, outgoing and easily approachable? Or, do you have one of those personalities like a Pit Bull on a bad day? If you do, you might want to reconsider becoming a police officer.

What the heck is a “police personality” anyhow? Well if you spend any time online trying to find out, you might come away a touch horrified. The classic police personality supposedly includes hostility, insecurity, suspicion, authoritarianism, conservatism and cynicism, not to mention machismo, bravery and aggression.

These traits will likely remind you of the movie Lethal Weapon with Mel Gibson as a super cop. Or it might make you recall the Denzel Washington flick called Training Day that portrayed a not so nice – ok, call it sadistic – cop throughout the film. This is a large part of the problem most police officers face today, the media’s perception of who and what they are.

This should strike you as being really odd because you have already likely spent an enormous amount of time being screened in order to make sure you are NOT a person with any of the traits we just mentioned. In reality, what the screening does is two things – select the best candidates and select those who have the particular personality traits suitable for policing.

Now the interesting thing about some of the screening tests, done by psychologists, is that although the tests don’t usually tell you what a police personality IS, it will tell you what it is NOT. So, the definition of what a cop is not has come about by taking apart profiles of unsuccessful applicants.

Don’t let any of this throw you off your stride. You know as well as we do that the police officers that protect and serve your community are just normal people like you and the rest of your classmates (assuming you are in a police foundation course). The media perception of whom and what you are is just that – a perception, and a poor one at that.

Sure there are rogue cops that have made the news for doing something wrong or crooked ones who have been caught selling seized drugs. However, by and large, most of the cops today are hard working, well meaning, reliable and honest people just trying to do a tough job under tough circumstances.

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