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Developing soft skills in the line of duty

Because conflict accompanies much of the job of officers, they must have the ability to resolve that conflict peacefully

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“The thin blue line, protecting the prey from the predators, the good from the bad” is a quote that resonates well with law enforcement.

The recent cases of women who claimed that policemen harassed them at roadblocks during the movement control order raise questions of integrity in law enforcement in this country.

The nature of law enforcement, corrections and other criminal justice careers demands that police officers interact appropriately with a variety of people in a variety of situations.

These are not necessarily the hard skills police officers gain in their professional training. These are the soft skills they need to develop to be 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. This leads to more positive interactions and communication between police officers and the people they encounter.


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 police officers in their daily interactions.

Active listening

A police officer would invariably have to deal with individuals who just want to be heard. Being an active listener helps such persons – whether they are victims of a crime or community members looking for a solution for those who committed the crime – feel appreciated and understood.

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


The day-to-day job of a police officer is far from predictable. Each call-for-service is often fluid and dynamic. 

Police officers should be flexible and adaptable, not only to the changing social climate and evolving technologies, but to individual situations as they unfold. Officers must be able to anticipate, adapt, and overcome challenges to provide real service to their communities.

Building trust

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

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 way that promotes community safety and security, and avoiding actions that can undermine trust.

Conflict resolution

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

Because conflict accompanies much of the job of officers, they must have the ability to resolve that conflict peacefully.

R Murali Rajaratenam is a senior matriculation lecturer in public relations, human communications and public speaking at a local private university. A former journalist, he is also involved in corporate training, event management and media relations

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