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Key Behaviors and Traits

The hiring of a law enforcement officer is one of the most important functions of any law enforcement agency. The officers hired not only represent the mission and vision of your office, but they also provide a service to the community and its members. It is key to remember that the officers you hire will ultimately determine the quality of your agency. Dr. Oliver identifies in his book, Recruitment, Selection & Retention of Law Enforcement Officers, 12 common and most desirable traits that should be considered by anyone involved in the recruitment and selection of law enforcement officers. The five traits marked with an asterisk represent those traits considered most essential.


When selecting for a law enforcement officer you are hiring an entry-level leader

– Dr. Patrick Oliver


Twelve Traits of Successful Law Enforcement Officers


The candidate has high moral and ethical standards and possesses integrity in all matters, public, and private. Given the power and authority bestowed upon a law enforcement officer, it is crucial that a potential candidate possesses a high moral character.

Human Diversity Skills

The candidate has the ability to act in an unbiased manner and must have an understanding of human diversity issues demonstrating cultural competency.

Service Orientation*

The candidate has a service orientation. A desire and commitment to service above self. Approximately 80 percent of the law enforcement job is service and 20 percent of it is enforcement. Helping, assisting, and guiding hurt people is a skill that is invaluable in a profession that operates 24 hours a day, as the most visible part of government.

Team Compatibility*

The candidate has a team orientation. The candidate has the ability to work with others in a cooperative, caring, and supportive manner to achieve goals of the group. The goals of the individual are subordinate to the goals of the team or organization.

Oral Communication Skill

The candidate has the ability to communicate well orally. The candidate is a good listener and can clearly transmit thoughts and ideas to others.

Written Communication Skill

The candidate has the ability to communicate well in writing and the ability to convey an idea, concept, or information in a clear, concise and appropriate format.


The candidate has the ability to be highly motivated while working independently.


The candidate has the ability to be a good decision maker and problem solver.

Human Relations Skill*

The candidate has the ability to interact with people, effectively demonstrating good human relation skills. It takes great human relations skills to manage conflict or problems in a patient, caring, and professional manner. A law enforcement officer will enter negative situations, often engaging people at their worst, and within their roles are expected to leave these same people with something positive.


The candidate has the ability to maintain self-control under stressful circumstance. Self-discipline is critical to responding properly.

Planning and Organizing Skill

The candidate has effective planning and organizing skills.

Performance Driven*

The candidate is performance driven and has the desire and motivation to be successful in achieving group and individual goals. Law enforcement officers often work independently as they are involved in daily self-initiated activities. This position requires individuals who want to be the best that they can be.