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Becoming a Skilled Observer: Police Officer Exam Cram

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The ability to observe and retain information is potentially the most vital skill that a police officer can possess. This chapter will help you prepare for the Police Officer Exam by providing pointers on organizing and retaining information for easier recall. Sample questions are included to help you practice.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Terms You'll Need to Understand:

  • Observation
  • Memorization
  • Retention
  • Information organization
  • Notes

Concepts You'll Need to Master:

  • Being a skilled observer
  • Maximizing information retention
  • Organizing information effectively
  • Taking effective notes
  • Observing and memorizing floor plans, crime scenes, and suspect information

Ability to Observe Detailed Information

The ability to observe is marked as a key trait of a skilled police officer. In your daily routine as a police officer, you will come in contact with numerous people, both victims and suspects, and you will be expected to recall their faces and other factual information about them. You also will be expected to recall information when you prepare your reports, when you give information to the detectives who do follow-up investigations on your case, and when you talk to the prosecuting attorney and testify in court as a witness on behalf of the state. Having a keen power of observation and the ability to recall visual information are very important qualities. That is why police officer selection exams are designed to test an applicant's ability to recall information after a brief observation period.

Even though the test format varies among police agencies, most current approaches in police applicant testing give a booklet to all applicants immediately before the exam. The booklet covers a variety of information. Applicants are given equal timeframes to look over the material. At the end of this period, the applicants are tested for their ability to recall information covered in the booklet.

Another approach is to give the booklet to applicants two to four weeks before the test. Applicants can read and memorize the contents of the booklet during this period, and the test covers the material in the booklet. Both approaches test applicants' ability to recall the information in the booklet. The booklet contains a variety of photographs and sketches. Questions are based on what can be observed in the crime scene. The questions focus on the criminal activity itself, not, for example, on the price of a candy bar or soda in the store.

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