Squared Away: What Makes A Good Officer “Good?”

By Greg Bogosian

This article is provided by Blauer Manufacturing and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Police1.

There are many concepts surrounding the overall idea of what makes someone a “good” or “bad” officer, with very few of us living up to either set of criterion fully (thankfully, in the case of the “bad”).  Just because we don’t happen to live up to the full definition of the term “supercop,” however, doesn’t mean that we are not good officers, worthy of respect for the honorable and professional way that we go about not only doing our job, but simply being a police officer in society.  Yet many of us do know “that guy” who everyone looks up to, and there are measurable qualities that many of them possess in common, so let’s talk about some of them and how they apply to each of us, even if we don’t have all of their traits ourselves.

Your Best Is Your Best
The core of being a good officer is honesty, through and through, in everything that we do – from the actual job itself, of course, to how we conduct ourselves in our personal lives.  Society has placed us in a position of ultimate trust (well, not so much lately with the media feasting on the few who don’t meet the ideal at all), and that trust must be justified by our efforts at remaining aboveboard in how we interact with others.  More than that, however, true honesty enables us to be ourselves, allowing our humanity to come through without fear of judgment because we know we are being faithful to who we are at our core.  (You’d be surprised how much stress and conflict that avoids, and how much better it can make the outcome of almost any call.)

Connected with that trait of honesty is the concept of clarity – of action, of purpose, and of motive – in how we conduct ourselves.  Being honest means that our intentions are clearly understandable by anyone (public, supervisors, the crazy guy on the corner wearing nothing but Burger King bags) on a human level, through the unspoken communication that we all recognize as that sixth sense of knowing when someone is telling us the truth.  By acting with integrity, we assure those who we protect that we are out for their best interests, and not our own – because when our own interests come into play, short of that which we need to do to protect ourselves against things like insane policies and politics (which we unfortunately must do in order to be able to keep on doing our job), we are automatically viewing a situation through our own lens, distorting its reality to fit our own.  There is no shortcut to our “best,” it is just that – no excuses, no compromises, no “well, but” about it.

Your Worst Is Part Of You
Even the best among us are still human, important to remember as well, and will have their own bad days.  The difference that makes them stand apart, however, is the ability to segment the “me” versus the “work” – not repressing or failing to process what’s going on, but recognizing that personal does not, in fact, have to carry over into professional.  (Incidentally, the opposite is true as well: what happens at work doesn’t need to be assigned to our personal lives or traits.  A lot of us aren’t so good at that one.)  

Even those things which aren’t going well can be turned to make you better at the job, by the way, and we frequently see those who we consider to be the “best” doing just that.  They, too, make mistakes, but rather than criticize or think lesser of themselves, they incorporate the lessons they learn as an observation, rather than a judgment - you can either take a call which goes south as a representation of failure, or as an opportunity to see that you can be better than you are.  Those which go so bad that they result in some time off are the highest level of this kind of self-improvement – again, not a judgment on you personally, but a wake-up call that something is wrong with how you handled or approached it.  Take that time off to work on it and return to the job more prepared.

Build A World Of Both
One last trait that is shared by every “great” cop I know, regardless of their specialty or time on the job, is that they have a well-rounded life outside of work as well as in.  Let’s face it, we spend most of our days dealing with the worst of society, or at a minimum, people at some of the low points or times of crisis in their lives.  
As a result, it’s critical that we have good things in our lives as well to balance them out – and to recognize those good things we already have and cherish them.  The temptation is oftentimes to place a higher value on the good we have a chance to do at work than the good we can actually do by just being there, fully, for our family and friends outside of it.  Helping others is a noble calling, but more noble is being a good friend, spouse, father, mother, and sometimes just a listening ear.  Being all of those first lays the foundation for being great at your job, and carries over the warmth needed to bring us through even those most cold and trying of calls – making us a more whole human being as we approach a job which sometimes seems to defy humanity, and reason, itself. 

Greg Bogosian is certified as a Reserve/Intermittent Police Officer by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and spent twelve years working as an EMT-Basic, including four years as a field EMT and dispatcher for the City of Boston EMS.  He was additionally a member of a Federal medical disaster relief team for ten years, with experience responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the pre-deployment of resources for Hurricane Ike.  Greg currently has a passion for educating public safety professionals about matters which impact their lives every day, and welcomes feedback and suggestions in the spirit of ensuring that best practices make it out there for all to benefit from. Read more from Greg at www.blauer.com/dispatch. 

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