Know Your Stuff

Competence and credibility go hand in hand with your ability to lead.  Credibility arises from who you are and competence is demonstrated through action and is founded in knowledge.  The profession demands a wide range of knowledge which must often be demonstrated in stressful situations.  Stress, coupled with a lack of knowledge can be catastrophic.  We have an obligation to constantly build our knowledge to improve our competence and performance under stress.

The first step to improving knowledge is making an honest assessment of ourselves so that we know what we don’t know.  This can be a daunting task that is more easily accomplished when we categorize the areas of knowledge required of us.

There are four primary areas of knowledge required of police officers which are applicable across all levels of the organization.  These areas come from the Army’s Be-Know-Do framework and include interpersonal, conceptual, technical and tactical.


Interpersonal knowledge reflects your ability to relate to and influence others.  Some have referred to this as emotional intelligence.  It is understanding how others are likely to react to our actions or words and designing them to have an appropriate outcome.  We come into contact with a diverse group of people and sometimes encounter language and cultural barriers.  A working knowledge of potential cultures or groups that you might come across in your area can improve your ability to effectively relate. The quality of our leadership, at all levels of the organization, is judged by our interpersonal skills and the ability to influence others.


Conceptual knowledge allows us to form important frameworks for thinking about the variety of situations we are confronted with.  We need to understand the contextual framework (Constitution, Oath, Laws, Orders and Regulations) that surround our decision-making and apply our other areas of knowledge through this framework.  This process of prioritization can be both complex and challenging.  It is important that we monitor the framework through which we view our world and the way we think our way through situations.


The demands on our technical knowledge increase daily.  The digital generation has changed our environment in a very short period of time.  The ability to operate computers, search a variety of databases, and deal with complicated communication systems were skill-sets we never dreamed of at the start of my career.  Technology has brought a slew of new crimes and offender types.  It takes special knowledge and skills to investigate crimes in the highly technical environment of today.


While all the areas of knowledge are equally important, it is our tactical skill set which often defines us with our peers.  We need to be proficient with the proper application of force and different weapons systems.  If we are lacking in these skills, we put the community, ourselves and our peers at risk.  It doesn’t take long to build a bad reputation if you are unsafe and your peers may become hesitant to take jobs with you.  You owe it to everyone around you to be tactically competent should the need arise.

The quest for knowledge is never-ending.  Every time we change positions we will need to upgrade our knowledge set.  Additionally the environment provides us with a moving target.  Environmental influences such as the law and technology are always changing and require that we put forth our best effort to keep up.  In his book Leadership, Rudy Giuliani talks about always having two books that he is reading – one for improvement and the other for pleasure.  The Guardian’s Bookshelf contains a list of books that were on my bookshelf and that I have found to be particularly useful.

As always, THANK YOU for what you do and BE SAFE!

Please offer your comments on your efforts and suggestions on keeping up with the ever increasing demand for knowledge.


Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply