Vital soft skills for police

21 Feb 2021 / 21:09 H.

    A POPULAR quote, “the thin blue line, protecting the prey form the predators, the good from the bad”, reflects well on law enforcement.

    Recent cases of women who claimed they were harassed by policemen at roadblocks during the movement control order, however, has raised questions about the integrity of law enforcement in this country.

    The nature of law enforcement, corrections, and other criminal justice related jobs demands that police officers interact appropriately with different people at any given time in a variety of situations.

    These are not necessarily the hard skills police officers acquire in their professional training.

    These are the soft skills they need to develop to be truly effective in their line of duty as police officers.


    Empathy is the ability to understand and share someone else’s feelings – to know what it is like to be in somebody else’s shoes. It allows for a deeper appreciation of what other individuals are experiencing.

    In turn, this leads to more positive interactions and communication between police personnel and the people they interact with.


    Compassion begins where empathy leaves off. If empathy is an understanding and sharing of other’s feelings, then compassion means putting that understanding into action.

    Treating individuals with compassion, whether they are witnesses, victims, or suspects helps build rapport and brings healing to dangerous and traumatic situations.

    Compassion is perhaps the most important attribute for modern law enforcement personnel in their daily interactions.

    Active listening

    As a policeman, one would deal with individuals who just want to be heard. Whether they are victims of a crime, or community members looking for solutions to criminal activities, being an active listener helps the audience feel appreciated and understood.

    Active listening means correctly interpreting and understanding the needs of others in a conversation. It is key in conflict resolutions.


    The day-to-day tasks of policemen are far from predictable. In fact, each individual call-for-service is often fluid and dynamic. Police personnel should be flexible and adaptable, not only to the changing social climate and evolving technologies but also to individual situations as they unfold.

    They must be able to anticipate, adapt, and overcome challenges in order to provide real service to their communities.

    Building trust

    To build trust in the community, police officers must be in constant communication with citizens, listening to their wants and needs and building rapport with those they work with everyday.

    The perception of law enforcement is created by its relationships with community members, community officials and the media. Trust means keeping promises, acting in a manner that promotes community safety and security as well as avoiding actions that can undermine trust.

    Conflict resolution

    Unfortunately, conflict is a huge part of what a law enforcement career is all about. Whether police are called to respond to an argument in progress or they are taking enforcement action against individuals, the nature of the job is such that it inevitably invites conflict to some degree or another.

    Because conflict accompanies much of the job as a policeman, one must have the ability to resolve that conflict peacefully.

    The writer is senior lecturer at Faculty of University Foundation Studies, HELP Matriculation Centre.


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