U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Maybe There's no Such Thing as a "Good Cop": Organizational Challenges in Selecting Quality Officers

NCJ Number
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Volume: 26 Issue: 2 Dated: 2003 Pages: 313-328
Beth A. Sanders
Robert H. Langworthy
Date Published
16 pages
This paper presents a review of the literature on what qualities are most desirable in selecting new and good police officers.
Predicting who will be a good police officer is difficult. The qualities which make a good police officer, such as intelligence, common sense, dependability, and honesty are often difficult to identify. This paper presents a review of the literature on the organizational challenges in selecting quality officers divided into four parts: (1) an examination of the personality traits thought to be characteristic of a good police officer; (2) the difficulties in measuring as well as predicting good police performance; (3) policy suggestions for police selection; and (4) addressing the question -- what if there is not such thing as a good officer? There remains an absence of agreement on what qualities are most desirable in policing. However, there are some personality attributes which do seem to appear more consistently in the literature: intelligence, honesty, common sense, reliability, and conscientiousness. There is still a lack of clarity as to how these constructs should be measured and tested, and if they can predict actual on-the-job performance. It is suggested that the law enforcement field stop thinking of policing so much as a unique job requiring exceptional people, and that a good employee is a good employee regardless of his/her particular field. References