Judgment Review for Police Officer Exam Study Guide (page 5)
What is judgment? A dictionary definition will say something like the ability to see and distinguish relationships or alternatives. Another definition might talk about the ability to think critically and make reasonable decisions based on existing information. Some people equate judgment to common sense.
Police officers must make many decisions in the course of their patrol duties. Despite the existence of procedure manuals and directives, these could never cover every event and the way that event might unfold. If a police department tried to put every situation that could occur into its manual, that manual would be literally too heavy to pick up.
Since it would be impossible for police departments to put applicants into real-world situations to observe their decision-making capabilities, they rely on different types of testing to do this for them. Most written exams will have a section where judgment is tested through multiple-choice questions. You will read a brief passage, usually one describing a police-related situation, and you will be given choices about what action you should take. To answer correctly, you will need to use your common sense, good judgment, and, of course, good reading skills because if you misunderstand the situation presented to you, you are likely to apply the wrong solution.
Some tests achieve the same results by showing the candidates brief videos and asking them to verbally answer questions similar to those they would otherwise have read. The video presentations are less common; they add expense to the testing and run the risk of technical difficulties that prevent all candidates from having the same chance to see the situation clearly. They may also be more difficult for the candidate because unless there are provisions for the videos to be replayed, you do not have the opportunity to reconsider your answer as you do with a question you read in a test booklet.
Whichever mechanism is used in your test—reading the questions from a booklet or viewing the situations on video—judgment questions fall into two general categories: situational judgment and application of rules and procedures. This section looks at each category and provides samples to help you analyze your abilities in this area.
Situational judgment questions ask you to think like a police officer. Do not be concerned that you do not know the laws, rules, or procedures that you are being asked to apply. The questions (or the videos) will tell you everything you need to know. You will be given a situation and you will be asked how you would have handled it if you were the police officer who responded to that event. To help you focus, you are given choices. As is traditional in multiple-choice questions you might be given four choices, or you might be given three specific actions with a fourth choice of "d. none of the above. " These questions are not meant to trick you; there will always be only one best answer. As with any reading comprehension question, make sure you understand the situation that is presented to you. Look for key words; look for context; consider the definitions of any words you do not know; and look for names, locations, and facts that could play a role in your decision-making.
Some judgment questions, like the reading comprehension questions, may give you one passage and ask for a series of decision based on it. In those cases, the later questions may be based on the first one, taking a format similar to "what would you do next?" Other questions will have only one question based on each situation. Do not allow yourself to fall into a pattern; the test might start with requiring you to answer only one question based on a situation and then move into a more complex situation with more than one question based on it. To get you in the mindset for judgment questions, here are samples of a one-question situation and of a situation with multiple parts.
Judgment Sample Questions
- You are a school resource officer assigned to Millburn Middle School. The school principal calls you to his office to report that 12-year-old Thomas has written obscene graffiti on the gym wall and has threatened 11-year-old Mark with a beating if he told anyone. Mark told his teacher, who in turn told the principal, who now wants you to arrest Thomas. The principal tells you that he has also grabbed Thomas by the arm, marched him back to the gym and forced him to erase what he wrote under threat of being expelled. Your best course of action is to
- Take Thomas into custody for criminal mischief and making threats, handcuff him, and call your dispatcher to request a police car to transport you and Thomas to your district station for processing.
- Take the principal into custody for simple assault and making threats, handcuff him, and call your dispatcher to request a police car to transport you and the principal to your district station for processing.
- Speak with the principal out of range of either Thomas or Mark and suggest that the situation be handled as other than a police matter.
- Call a supervisor to respond to the scene.
- Campus Police Officer Skoronski is directing traffic at the entrance to the college's athletic arena after the end of a homecoming basketball game. A small, compact car stalls and the driver is unable to restart his engine. He is blocking one of the two lanes leading out of the arena area. There is a shoulder on only the right-side lane; the roadway is flat. What should Skoronski do?
- Call for a tow truck to move the vehicle.
- Push the car onto the shoulder of the road so that other traffic may proceed.
- Tell the driver to keep trying to start the car and hope he will be successful.
- Direct traffic around the stalled vehicle by having the cars drive on the shoulder of the road.
- While patrolling a suburban light rail station platform at about 10 P. M., Transit Police Officer Lynch is stopped by a middle-aged woman who is crying and holding a piece of ice from a soda cup to a bruise on the side of her face. She tells Officer Lynch that her boyfriend, who is standing off to the side near parked vehicles, hit her twice after an argument about when the train was arriving. Office Lynch should
- arrest the woman on suspicion of prostitution.
- ask the women from whom she obtained the soda and ice.
- take a statement from the man identified as the boyfriend.
- take the woman's statement and detain the boyfriend for questioning.
- Police officers are trained to call for another officer to provide backup when a situation seems to require additional personnel. In which of the following situations would it be most necessary for you, responding as a single-office patrol unit on the 4 P. M. to midnight shift, to request backup assistance?
- Two women who appear to be neighbors are shouting at one another from their front lawns.
- Two women are threatening each other with bottles in the shopping mall parking lot.
- An intoxicated man is staggering on the sidewalk adjacent to police headquarters.
- Teenagers are making noise in a local park's playground.
- The car bearing out-of-state plates is about to turn into a one-way street going the wrong way. You should
- pull the vehicle over and issue a summons to the driver.
- ignore the driver since the street he is trying to enter runs for only a block before becoming a two-way street.
- advise the driver to get a copy of the city's traffic regulations if he intends to keep driving locally.
- advise the driver of his error and permit him to continue on his way without entering the one-way street.
- The person you pulled over on the speeding motorcycle identifies himself as a sergeant from a neighboring department who is off-duty and on his way to pick up his wife from work. You should
- give the police officer either a summons or a warning on the same basis as you would any other motorist.
- apologize for not recognizing a local-area police supervisor and permit him to proceed.
- not issue a summons but report the situation to your supervisor.
- not issue a summons but report the sergeant to a higher-ranking member of his department.
Answer questions 5 and 6 based on the following situation.
You have been assigned to traffic duty at a busy intersection and two situations occur during your patrol; one involves a car with out-of-state license plates, and the other involves a motorcycle with instate plates driven by someone exceeding the speeding limit by about 10 miles per hour.
- c. In this situation, only choice c is the best possible answer. Arresting either the student or the principal are overreactions, particularly since they are both fully identified and can be located in the future if the arrest of either is necessary. While it is correct that it is an officer's obligation to arrest under certain circumstances, neither the principal nor the student have committed a crime so serious that you are required to take police action at the scene. Choice d is one you might have to resort to if the principal is unwilling to consider your suggestion to handle the matter without an arrest, but in all but the most dire situations, calling a supervisor should not be your first course of action.
- b. As in the question above, each of the options is possible but only one is the best choice. While you might not think the officer should engage in the manual labor of pushing someone else's vehicle, this is the most direct option for getting traffic flowing. Remember also that the situation indicated the car was a small, compact model, diminishing the possibility it would be too heavy for the officer to push, particularly if the driver or any others in the immediate area assist. Choices a and c would not resolve the immediate problem of getting traffic moving. Choice d increases the possibility of accidents or another vehicle becoming disabled on the shoulder.
- d. Probable cause has been established for a charge of at least simple assault by the women's statement and the boyfriend should be detained and most likely arrested.
- b. Only choice b presents a situation that is potentially life-threatening to the participants or to the officer. Choice d may at some point require assistance if you approach the teenagers and their subsequent actions indicate a possibility of danger, but as described here, the situation has not risen to that level.
- d. Although going the wrong way on a one-way street creates a dangerous situation, in this instance the driver was stopped by you before committing any violation; while not ticketing the driver, you should warn him and possibly alert him to how one-way streets are marked in your jurisdiction if you believe he was confused.
- a. Another police officer who is pulled over for a traffic violation should be treated just as any other motorist would be; you have the authority to exercise discretion as to whether or not to issue a summons to any motorist in this situation.
Tips for Answering Situational Judgment Questions
- Read carefully, but don't read anything into the situation that isn't there.
- Think like a cop: Safety first. Use the least possible force.
- Use your common sense.
Application of Laws and Procedures
The exam will very likely include judgment questions that ask you to apply rules, laws, police, or procedures to particular situations. These questions actually combine reading comprehension and judgment because you must first be sure you understand the set-up to the question before selecting an answer. These questions try to put you in the shoes of police officers by forcing you to apply the knowledge provided in the question. This simulates having to apply your knowledge of the laws of your city or state, or department procedures, and then use that knowledge to decide what to do in a given situation.
Although the principles of answering the questions are the same, to help you get into the mindset of these types of questions the first three samples pertain to application of laws and the second three pertain to application of police procedures. If you are familiar with laws or police procedures, be guided only by what you are told in the question and do not read into it material that is not there.
Application of Laws and Procedures Sample Questions
- Shoplifting is defined as the theft of goods from a store, shop, or place of business during business hours where the suspect takes the good(s) past the last point of opportunity to pay for the merchandise without attempting to offer payment. Based on this definition, which of the following is the best example of shoplifting?
- Terry enters the Bag and Save grocery store and gets a piece of candy. After going to the counter, he finds he has no money. The store clerk tells him to take the candy and he leaves the store eating it.
- Terry enters T & T Electronics to purchase batteries. He puts a package of batteries into his coat pocket while looking at new laptop computers and then turns to leave the store. In the store's doorway, Terry remembers the batteries and returns to the check-out line to pay for them.
- Terry enters Phil's Pharmacy to pick up a prescription. After paying, he walks over to the cologne counter, places a bottle in his left front pocket, and walks out of the pharmacy.
- Terry and his mother enter Healthy Foods grocery. Terry picks up a candy bar, eats it, hands his mother the wrapper, and then walks out of the store while his mother stands in the checkout line. His mother places the empty wrapper on the counter along with the other groceries, and the clerk scans the price of the candy along with the other items.
- According to the definition given, which situation is the best example of criminal mischief in the first degree?
- The Barker twins, Joe and Tony, celebrating their high school graduation, place a cherry bomb next to their neighbor's lawn chairs, destroying $90 worth of outdoor furniture.
- The Barker twins' noisy graduation party is annoying their next door neighbor, who is trying to read a book. The neighbor scratches the door of a car belonging to one of the guests, doing about $190 worth of damage.
- At the Barker twins' graduation party, Victoria is admiring Joe's BB gun. She fires the weapon, shattering the Barkers' living room picture window and causing about $800 worth of damage.
- Leaving the Barker twins' graduation party, Carlos, who is driving his mother's car without her permission, mistakenly hits the gas pedal instead of the brake while backing up and collides with another guest's car, doing about $1,000 worth of damage.
- Mr. Barker has an ongoing feud with his neighbor, Mr. Marks. He is annoyed when he discovers that his wife lent the Markses a lawn mower that he had purchased only a week prior. In attempting to take the mower from the Markses garage, he damages it sufficiently to make it worthless. According to the definition of criminal mischief, Mr. Barker could be charged with
- felony criminal mischief.
- misdemeanor criminal mischief.
- felony or misdemeanor criminal mischief based on the value of the mower.
- none of the above.
- Based on the information above, which interpretation is most accurate?
- When their lives are threatened, police officers may fire warning shots.
- When their lives are threatened, police officers may fire at a moving vehicle.
- Police officers may fire warning shots from their police car.
- Police officers may never fire either warning shots or from their police car.
- Campus Police Officer Urbana is pursuing a driver who has sped through the parking lot payment gate without paying the $7 parking fee and is leaving campus. Based on her department's policies, she should
- open fire on the suspect by trying to shoot through the driver's rear window.
- open fire and try to shoot out one of the suspect's rear tires.
- put on her lights and siren to attempt to overtake the driver before he leaves campus.
- try to copy down the driver's license plate number and check it against the college's parking records.
- Eastville Police Department has a procedure that officers must follow when handling found property, which is defined as property that was discovered by anyone, including a police officer, but is not evidence from a crime scene. In such instances, officers should:
- Write and turn in before the end of their shift a report stating who found the property, what the property is comprised of; where it was found, and where it was located.
- Complete a property tag that contains the report number, the officer's name, badge number, and the date and time the property was turned in, and attach the tag to the property.
- Turn the property in to the Property Room before the end of the shift on which the property was turned in.
- improperly because he should have obtained more information from Warren.
- properly because he turned his report in before the end of his shift.
- improperly because he did not turn the property in to the Property Room before the end of his shift.
- improperly because he made no attempt to locate the property's owner.
Answer questions 8 and 9 based on the definition of criminal mischief.
Criminal mischief occurs when a person intends to do damage to the property of another, and without any legal right to do so, damages that person's property. If the property is worth more than $250, it is a felony and constitutes criminal mischief in the first degree. If the property is worth $250 or less, it is criminal mischief in the second degree, which is a misdemeanor.
Answer questions 10 and 11 based on the procedure described.
Police officers are prohibited from firing warning shots under any and all circumstances. Police officers are also prohibited from firing at moving vehicles unless their vehicle is being shot at or the other vehicle is being used in the commission of a crime that is likely to cause death to the victim, the offender, or the police officer.
While on patrol in a marked police car, Office Lee was flagged down by a pedestrian, Carl Warren, who wanted to turn in a gold-colored watch that he found on the sidewalk in front of 200 Elm Street. The watch's wristband was broken; Warren told the officer he thought it might have fallen off as someone walked up the street. He handed the watch to Officer Lee without providing any additional information other than his name and that he lived in town. Officer Lee wrote the property report using the information provided by Warren and placed a tag on the property that contained the report number, his name, his badge number, and the date and time the watch came into his possession. Before resuming patrol, he placed the watch in the glove box of his patrol car, and he turned the report in an hour after preparing it. The next morning, he turned the watch in to the Property Room. Based on his department's procedure, Officer Lee acted
- c. Choice c is the only one that fits the definition of shoplifting because an item left the store without authorization and the individual did not attempt to pay for it. In choice a a person with authority permitted the customer to leave without paying; in choice b the customer returned to pay before leaving the store, and in choice d the item was paid for even if it had already been eaten.
- c. Choice c is the only one that combines the intent and dollar value to match the definition of criminal mischief in the first degree. In choices a and b, the dollar value was below $250 and in choice d there was no intent to do damage.
- d. The definition specifies that the property must belong to another, but Mr. Barker damaged only his own property.
- b. Choice b is the only one that correctly interprets the directive. Choice a is incorrect because police officers may never fire warning shots; if their lives are threatened, they should not be firing merely to warn. Choice c is incorrect because police officers may never fire warning shots; this choice confuses warning shots with firing from a vehicle. Choice d is incorrect because police officers may sometimes fire from their cars.
- d. This question is an example of combining judgment with application of policies. Choices a and b are incorrect based on the shooting policy; choice c is not covered directly but gets at your judgment as to the value of undertaking what could turn into a dangerous car chase over $7.
- c. The procedure calls for turning in property to the Property Room before the end of the shift during which it is located.
Tips for Answering Application Questions
- Read what's there, not what you think should have been there.
- Read through all the choices before you pick an answer.
- Find the exact spot in the law or the procedure that supports your answer.
Improving Your Judgment Skills
After having tested yourself on these judgment questions, you should have some ideas about how to improve your skills for this section of your exam. These types of questions ask you to see yourself as the officer you hope to become. You are asked to consider your safety and the safety of others, to be guided by the principle of using the least force necessary to resolve a situation, and how to read carefully and interpret laws and procedures to particular situations.
To improve your judgment skills, you should read, read, and read. After you read something, think about what you read and quiz yourself on the content. Learn to use a dictionary to learn the meanings of words you do not recognize. Before going to the dictionary, see if you can figure out the word's meaning from the context of what you read. This will enhance your vocabulary, which will help you not only on the written test but in all areas of your life. It will also help your self-confidence, which will benefit you on all areas of the exam, particularly on the judgment questions.
Self-confidence gives you the sense that you are able to understand and solve problems rather than read something and immediately believe that it is too complex or too technical for you to master. Self-confidence will also help you to focus on what you know rather than what you do not know. Remember that you do not need to know laws or police procedures to do well on this section of the exam. Whatever information you need is given to you in the question. If you are already in law enforcement, it is important that you do not overthink the information that is given to you. The laws in your state may be different from what you are given in a question; this may be because the test is administered in states around the country or because the question is based on what a person with no legal training can understand, not what someone who has already attended a police academy might know. The same is true for applying procedures. Do not look for what the procedure may lack; instead, read it as supplying all the information you need to correctly answer the question.
Washington Virtual Academies
Tuition-free online school for Washington students.
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Child Development Theories
- The Homework Debate
- Social Cognitive Theory
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- First Grade Sight Words List