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To achieve high job satisfaction, organization commitment and job performance for law enforcement officers, HR specialists need to study individual characteristics of all applicants. In particular, candidates should have strong physical capacity, appropriate mental capacity to solve difficult and dangerous situations and significant interpersonal skills to work efficiently with people that they are required to protect. The aim of this paper is to research whether cognitive abilities are essential for police officers and whether they have to be checked. Besides, personality traits required for work under stress will be analyzed. Finally, it will be studied which of them are important for a person to be able to communicate with co-workers and members of communities that a police officer serves.
Cognitive ability certainly should be part of the exam because it has a significant impact on performance of workers. It is particularly important for people working under stress since according to researches, under pressure at work, people with too high cognitive abilities demonstrate greater decline of job performance. At the same time, job performance of people with lower cognitive abilities reduces less. Therefore, the idea that some people are “too clever” for working in police appeared. Moreover, one American police force even has set an upper limit on cognitive ability test results for its applicants (Naish, 2013). They explained such innovation by the fact that workers with very high cognitive ability get bored easily and tend to leave workplace faster than people with average cognitive ability do. High turnover is not beneficial for police department because police officers get an intensive initial training. However, not all applicants agree with such attitude. For instance, one person sued for discrimination after not receiving a job due to test scores over upper cognitive ability limit. The suitor said that he suffered from discrimination because the level of cognitive ability was genetic, so he could not control it. Nevertheless, the applicant lost the case (Naish, 2013). Therefore, setting limits should not be a problem.
As for reasons of performance decline, it is explained with the type of thinking processes used by people with high cognitive ability. In particular, they apply “controlled processing”. It means that such people have significantly conscious thinking and planning strategies that takes time. Instead, employees with less cognitive ability prefer automatic processing and rely more on common sense or gut feel. Therefore, under stress workers that “think too much” demonstrate greater performance decline than those, who trust their gut feel (Naish, 2013). In fact, performance of people with very high cognitive ability is same as performance of employees of the lower cognitive group but together with other factors, it is important.
Nevertheless, few employees with high cognitive ability could be useful for the team because they can offer genius strategies. At the same time, employees with average cognitive ability should be hired to demonstrate “too clever” co-workers their mental traps. Moreover, it is necessary to employ someone who can transform genius strategies into clear concreate plans (Naish, 2013). To sum up, cognitive abilities should be the part of the exam but people with different level of intellect should he hired. However, the proportion of “very clever” employees should lower due to negative effects described above.
Personality Traits for Working under Stress
There is a list of personality traits that can predict a police officer’s ability to deal with stressful situations and make decisions under stress. First, it is necessary to measure neuroticism/emotional stability because it demonstrates the person’s possibility to deal with such negative emotions as anxiety, depression and danger, which often happen while dealing with dangerous situations and under pressure (Reaume, 2009). In the case of having lower neuroticism scores, the person is emotionally stable, reasonably relaxed and less stressful. These traits are very important for police officers (Reaume, 2009).
Second, the person needs to have moderate levels of conscientiousness, which means being organized, self-disciplined, self-controlling and diligent (Reaume, 2009). These traits are necessary for making decisions under pressure. Therefore, testing applicants for police department, is reasonable to search people with lower neuroticism and higher emotional stability as well with moderate levels of conscientiousness. These predictors of job performance demonstrate that potential police officers will be able to deal with negative emotions because they are emotionally stable, less stress-prone and quite relaxed. They can make decisions in risky conditions because they are organized and diligent.
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Personality Traits for Efficient Working with Colleagues and Community
According to researches, community members want a police officer to be “a good person”. Therefore, to determine personality traits that are necessary for effective work with community members, it is primary important to identify the concept of “good person” (Reaume, 2009). Apart from being honest, a potential police officer should be compassionate and empathetic. In fact, it is not difficult to teach a person certain professional knowledge but teaching a pathetic employee to be understanding could be a challenge. Direct interpersonal skills checking would be also useful because such traits as empathy and communication skills are seen only during actual communication (Means, Lowry & Conroy, 2011).
Besides, the person should not be very judgmental and prejudiced but he/she needs to be open, accepting and quite tolerant of diversity. Appreciation of innovation and efficiency is also required. These personality traits can be detected by measuring intellect/openness to experience. It is important that people with average test scores are the most appropriate because humans with high results get dissatisfied with their work quickly, so they lose interest in interacting with others (Reaume, 2009).
In addition, high extraversion is necessary because it demonstrates that an individual prefers personal interaction. An applicant with high extraversion also is active and cheerful. These traits are important for police officers because they often need to lead, persuade and effectively work in the team (Reaume, 2009). Besides, mid-level agreeableness is required since it shows that an individual has a clear understanding of personal identity, which is essential for both working in a team and independently. The following trait also can predict whether the person will be cooperative, acceptable, warm, persistent, flexible and ready to search compromise (Reaume, 2009). Therefore, while evaluating personality traits that are necessary for efficient work within the team and community, it is reasonable to pay attention to such predictors as moderate level of intelligence/openness to experiences, high extraversion and moderate agreeableness. However, as studies show, community members particularly value a police officer that is “a good person”, so direct testing of interpersonal skills should be performed for detecting individuals with high empathy.
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In conclusion, applicants for the police department should pass few tests. First, the exam of cognitive ability is required. Setting up the upper limit of cognitive ability is not obligatory. Moreover, few “very clever” people could be hired because they are able to generate genius strategies for the department but preferences should be given to people with average test scores. Second, testing of neuroticism/emotional stability and conscientiousness need to be included for predicting candidates’ ability to work under stress. Third, intelligence/openness to experiences, extraversion and agreeableness should be also in the exam as they check ability to work in the team and with community members.
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