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Some Police Candidates Have an Unfair Advantage

When taking the Police Test Why Do Some Police Candidates Have an Unfair Advantage? By Don Cirillo

Why do friends and relatives of police officers do well on police judgment/situation questions and have an unfair advantage? Although it’s a federal mandate that you’re not required to know police procedures when taking law enforcement entrance exams, many test makers conclude that police procedures are just common sense. They’re usually included in the test in some form. The reason: they measure two very important traits needed for police work: JUDGMENT and COMMON SENSE. 

But here’s THE DILEMMA: to really do well on these judgment questions you need more than just common sense. The reason police friends and relatives do well, is that they’re familiar with police language and police thinking. This gives them a DECISIVE EDGE when they choose answers to these questions.

 Ideally, you shouldn’t need to know police procedures and policies or the law; you should just be able to interpret them. Realistically, if you know the basic philosophies of police procedures before taking the test, answering the questions becomes much easier. 

To Answer Police Situational Questions You Must Think Like a Police Officer  

If you had a friend or relative who was on the police force they could help you THINK LIKE a police officer and give YOU an edge when answering police situational questions.

In this article I will give you some important tips and strategies on how to handle difficult police situation questions. The goal is to help you THINK LIKE a police officer. It will not only give you an edge for the written test, but also will help you with the ORAL INTERVIEW. 

On the test you’ll be given police procedures and asked to apply them to situations. You’ll be tested on your ability to remember information, analyze data and apply it using common sense, good judgment and the ability to solve problems. 

Most police procedure questions ask: What would YOU do if   

Assume you’re a police officer. How would you respond? The questions are based on ACTUAL POLICE SITUATIONS. 

For instance: What would you do if you saw a man walking down the street dressed only in a baseball hat, (naked) carrying a baseball bat?

Arrest him?

On what charge?

What would you do? 

The first thing you should do is to ask questions and try to determine what happened. He may be a victim of a crime. Don’t jump to conclusions. 

TIP: Do the most important things first! It’s IMPORTANT TO PRIORITIZE your response to the situation. It’s also important to familiarize yourself with the role of a police officer in the particular police department you hope to join. Each department has a definite set of priorities that govern a cop’s decision-making process. 

Here are some important factors you should know when answering police judgment questions.   

1. Protect the welfare of citizens, victims, and fellow officers. ALWAYS tend to and assist anyone who is in danger, injured, wounded or in the line of fire, etc. Help anyone in danger. Repeat, your most important job is to always assist and protect endangered people FIRST. This includes victims of crimes, injured persons, physically endangered persons and potential victims. 

2. Secure public order. Keep the peace against acts of aggression, riots, armed suspects and destruction of property. 

3. Uphold the laws. Arrest those who violate the laws, protect crime scenes and preserve evidence. Enforce laws, investigate violations of law and make arrests when necessary. 

4. Help those needing assistance. This duty focuses on people not in immediate danger, such as non-injured victims of crimes, the mentally ill, the homeless, neglected children and lost or stranded persons. 

5. Maintain order on your beat. Check your beat for suspects and suspicious activity. Investigate suspicious persons, potential hazards, etc. Know your beat by becoming familiar with the physical structure, the streets, the buildings and the people, especially the criminal element. 

6. Maintain proper flow of traffic. Make sure damaged traffic signs and lights are repaired. Make sure proper direction of traffic is conducted with the use of traffic cones and traffic officers until repairs are made. 

Based on using the police priority factor, what do you do in the following situation? 

You are a police officer is working a security guard detail at the state fair. Which of the following situations do you handle first? 

1. There is a crowd forming around two unarmed teenagers arguing.

2. A dumpster sitting next to the main tent pavilion is on fire.

3. The Ferris wheel is stuck in midair with people still on it.

4. A man, who is obviously drunk, has passed out and is lying by the ticket booth. 

The correct answer is 2: The dumpster on fire should be dealt with first. It is sitting next to the main tent pavilion and is possibly a danger to many people. 

The Value of Police Hierarchy

The police officer’s job is extremely hard at times. He/she is expected to make quick decisions in situations involving conflicting values. 

For instance: 

It may be necessary to choose between allowing dangerous criminals escape or risking serious injury to a hostage. 

Some departments set clear parameters for many of these types of situations. But, because of all the unforeseen situations officers face on a daily basis, these parameters cannot cover every possible type of situation. 

The Police Hierarchy List

You’ll notice Police Hierarchy is similar to the Police Priority list but they’re not the same. 

While Police Priority is concerned with order of importance, Police Hierarchy deals with rank and authority. LEARN THEM BOTH if you want to do well on police situation questions. Plus, it will go a long way in helping you make good decisions when you become a law enforcement officer. Here is the most commonly used Police Hierarchy: 

1. PROTECTING LIFE AND LIMB IS #1. Always take action first on those things that pose a threat to someone’s safety and tend to injured people: performing first aid, calling for an ambulance, etc. 

2. Obeying orders in emergency situations is the #2 priority. 

Obeying orders should be done at all times. The only exception is when the order interferes with the protection of life and limb or violates the law. 

3. Protecting property. 

4. Obeying orders in non-emergency situations. 

5. Maintaining your assigned duties. 

6. Being efficient in getting the job done. 

7. Avoiding the blame ­ i.e. earning praise and respect. 

Using Police Hierarchy and Common-Sense  


You are assigned to a particular area during an emergency situation and ordered by your supervisor to stay at this location. But, by leaving this location, you can help a severely injured person and possibly save that person’s life. 

What do you do?

You are justified in choosing to leave your assigned area to help the injured person, even though you are disobeying the supervisors order — provided that leaving your assigned area will not result in other lives being put in danger or lost. 

Always remember protection of life is the #1 priority. 

By thinking about the Police Hierarchy and Police Priorities it will help you “Think Like a Police Officer” and make answering police situational questions much easier. 


When answering Police Judgment Questions read carefully but don’t read anything into the situation. Think like a COP. Think about the police priority list. Keep in mind things like “safety first” and using the least amount of force to get the job done. And always USE COMMON SENSE.

 Don Cirillo a 25 year veteran of law enforcement has helped many law enforcement candidates score high on their Police Exam. You can learn how you can get better scores on your police exam and become a police officer at . It includes test questions, interview strategies, and much more — everything you need to get the job! Reach Don at

1 Comment »

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    Comment by Thomas | April 2, 2012 | Reply

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