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Problem Solving & Analytical Skills in Law Enforcement

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Law enforcement agents, such as police officers and detectives, must have strong problem-solving and analytical skills so they can evaluate situations and arrest offenders to protect the public. Police officers often have little time to react, so they must use their best judgment to make effective, expedient decisions. Powerful problem-solving skills often help law enforcement agents pacify tense situations before they worsen.

SARA Model

According to the U.S. Department of Justice law enforcement guidebook, one of the best known police problem-solving methods is the SARA model -- scanning, analysis, response and assessment. Officers and detectives identify problems, explore underlying causes, respond with analytical strategies and monitor ongoing results. The SARA model is easy to remember and effective at rapidly assessing critical situations. Law enforcement agents must address situations logically, confidently and assertively without allowing their emotions to negatively impact outcomes.

Risk Assessments

Police officers and detectives use analytical skills to determine what other help or resources are needed. They might call for backup, contact emergency medical services, solicit help from firefighters or initiate crime scene investigations. They must quickly secure areas, help trapped victims escape, and assess injuries so they can get victims the care they need. Police officers often make risk assessments to determine what steps are necessary and what actions are needed to ensure the best results. Quick-thinking, analytical assessments lead to effective responses and are especially important when offenders are armed or pose immediate danger to innocent bystanders or other law enforcement agents.

Common Sense

Even though law enforcement officers follow legal guidelines, such as reading of Miranda Rights, and use statistics and protocols to handle high-stress or dangerous situations, common sense is a big part of problem solving and critical analysis, according to the Department of Justice. Officers' previous work experiences, knowledge of neighborhoods and neighborhood crime, familiarity with repeat criminals, understanding of criminal offenses, and previous interactions with victims help them make decisions based on common sense. Police officers and detectives can't rely on common sense and intuition alone, but they are valuable problem-solving techniques.

Moral, Legal and Ethical Foundations

Law enforcement agents must consistently follow and rely on their department's goals and standards. They must incorporate moral, legal and ethical practices into their analytical assessments, so they don't compromise evidence, eyewitness testimonies, confessions or crime scene investigations. Thorough documentation, above-board conduct, nonreckless behavior, exemplary conduct, and integrity are vital to developing effective problem-solving skills. Reputable law enforcement officers leave little room for others to question their judgments, behavior and actions.


As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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