Question: “Do you believe that police work is black and white?”
Answer: The law enforcement profession is without question, one of the most dynamic professions in our society. The decisions that officers are called upon to make are too abundant to number and the circumstances that we’re placed in are different, unusual and sometimes even bizarre. There are certainly occasions that the “black and white” rule applies.
One example would be the drunk driver that crashes his car into a light pole in a department store parking lot. He’s intoxicated, he’s had an accident and he’s going to jail. That’s pretty black and white, and most agencies have policy on the arrest of DUI suspects.
Conversely, an officer is called to a home by a mother who found a small amount of marijuana in her seventeen year old daughter’s dresser drawer. Mom wants the officer to counsel and give guidance to her child. The law allows the officer to arrest people in possession of illegal drugs, but that may not be the right approach, and so officer discretion comes in to play, and that certainly isn’t black and white.
I’m not going to charge in the home, handcuff the young girl and take her to jail, this is the black and white approach. Instead, this is my opportunity to connect with this young person, confiscate and inventory the marijuana, and to do my best to educate her on the ills of her behavior, letting her know what the consequences are of continue use of that substance.
Our job requires solid critical thinking skills and that’s one of the many reasons I’ve chosen this profession. Not everyone can effectively serve as a law enforcement officer. I believe I have those critical thinking skills and one of my attractions to this profession is the fact that we don’t have that “here’s how you do everything” textbook.
A good officer can manage this profession, an excellent officer not only manages, but excels in their environment. So, that’s my long answer to say that where there will be times that a situation may have a black and white element, overall, this is not a black and white profession.
Explanation: In essence, the oral panel wants to hear you say that there is some black and white, cut and dried elements of police work, but in totality, it’s NOT a B&W profession, but you can’t stop there. It’s very important that you tell them why it’s not, and the fact that there is no handbook on how to do everything, which really is the telltale indicator that LE is not B&W.
You gave them a brief example of how a situation might be perceived as B&W, the drunk driver having an accident, and the much more powerful example of why this profession isn’t black and white, the mother of the 17 girl that wanted a police officer to talk to her child about marijuana.
The candidate that indicates the opposite, (that LE is a black and white profession) is the candidate that is looked upon by the panel as being naïve, potentially hard-core and rather simple minded. They don’t want a black and white, letter of the law type of candidate, they want you to be reasonably flexible and to articulate your ability to think, critically. Work on this answer so it flows and sounds natural when you answer it, and by all means I encourage you to use different examples if you so choose.
Best wishes for an outstanding oral board interview! If you’d like to see more than 100 videos just like this one, and a whole lot more, visit Earn Your Badge.
To your success, I’m Chief Russ.