What Skills Do I Need as a Beat Cop?

Sheri Cyprus

To be an effective beat cop, you should have an accurate ability to size up people and situations quickly, while also being able to remain calm and rational. Good listening and decision making skills plus a firm, yet caring attitude are other crucial police officer attributes. You'll need to have a good analytical ability that includes asking questions in an investigative approach. Being in good physical shape is necessary, as you may need to chase suspects. You should be perceptive as well as able to both give and receive directives clearly.

Beat cops must be able to handle the situations they encounter on a regular basis.
Beat cops must be able to handle the situations they encounter on a regular basis.

Following police department policy is something you'll have to always be aware of to avoid lawsuits and prevent handling cases incorrectly or illegally. Reading through procedural guides and having the skill to apply what you read to your day-to-day work covering your assigned area, or beat, is necessary to succeed. As a beat cop, you'll always have to be prepared to act quickly in case of an emergency, yet also follow police policies. Being prepared for the unexpected is crucial, as even a seemingly tame beat may involve a sudden incident that could challenge your training background.

Cops are required to have good communication and listening skills.
Cops are required to have good communication and listening skills.

Telling others what to do in case of an arrest or violation requires good communication skills. You'll have to adjust your communication approach to suit the situation, such as when dealing with difficult, violent or incoherent people. Ensuring you use proper protocol as far as reading suspects their rights, if this is required in your country, is an essential skill for a beat cop. You'll have to master a firm, yet calm and polite, tone to give directives such as for suspects to exit a vehicle or hold up their hands.

Listening skills are extremely important for a beat cop. In handling disputes, you'll often need to hear out the story of each person involved to try to discern what really happened and whether any criminal charges should be made. You should have good fitness skills, as you may need to run after suspects who try to escape. Walking your beat may also be required instead of or along with another mode of transportation that may involve a patrol car or motorcycle.

Being perceptive and noticing details is a helpful policing skill. It can sometimes prove a suspect's words wrong, such as if he or she denies having drugs in the car, but you notice some suspicious residue on a seat cushion. Rather than jump to conclusions, you'll require the critical thinking skills, as well as a testing kit and the knowledge to use it, to properly deal with evidence to ensure that what you assume is drugs actually is that. Asking questions to get to the bottom of a situation is also a key skill in being a beat cop. Being able to accurately size up each situation and the people involved is a policing skill that usually takes experience as well as effective information gathering to develop fully.

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