Criminal justice is a very diverse field, but there is a set of characteristics that most criminal justice professionals have in common. It takes a special type of individual to succeed in this field, and unless you possess a certain set of qualities, you might find yourself struggling.
Many who enter the field come with preconceived notions and assume that they have what it takes, only to get disillusioned and disappointed. This is why it’s important that you do some introspection, and make a clear assessment of your personality type before you embark on this career path. Here are some of the traits and qualities needed to succeed in criminal justice.
Criminal justice involves a lot of paperwork and politics, and you might have to collaborate with many agencies. This could mean waiting for procedures and dealing with bureaucracy. As a counselor, police officer, or lawyer, you might have to wait months for certain court procedures, trials, court orders, and arrests. Impatient people are often those who cross the line, which could lead to severe repercussions. So, if you are an impulsive person, then this field is definitely not for you.
However, that doesn’t mean that patience is a quality you can’t develop yourself. Here are some of the things you can do to become a more patient person:
- Learn how to reframe situations
- Practice gratitude
- Practice mindfulness
- Learn meditation
- Apply breathing techniques
More importantly, try to understand the consequences of being impatient and the benefits of patience in your everyday life. You can only do that by being more mindful and aware of situations and observing your reactions to them.
This is perhaps the most important trait for anyone thinking of entering the field. Not only do you have to be on the right side of the law, but you have to be able to put your personal biases aside. Integrity is what will gain you the respect of your clients, managers, and the people you serve.
Public servants with integrity are the ones who have a better chance of getting accepted by their community. Guards with integrity get the respect of inmates, police officers with integrity are respected by the public, and lawyers with integrity gain a good reputation. Police and judges need to apply the law, and not their own beliefs and principles.
Willingness to Learn
If you were thinking of working in something like law enforcement, know that continuous education is very important if you want to maintain your certification in certain districts. The more you learn as an officer or criminal justice professional, the better you’ll be able to understand criminal behavior and the motivations behind it.
Also, know that continuing your education is now easier than ever through online classes. You can now get an online criminal justice associates degree while you maintain your position. This will allow you to be more well-rounded, and increase your chances for promotion. Not only that, but it could qualify you to work in a wide variety of fields. Here are some of the things you’ll learn in a criminal justice associates’ program:
- The agencies and process involved in administering justice
- Criminal justice ethics
- Social psychology
- Critical analysis of the US criminal justice system
With an associate’s degree, you could work as a private detective, correctional officer, or open a door to a career in criminal law. Others decide to become social workers or turn to advocacy. This is a great degree for someone who wants a deeper understanding of the criminal system, and to work at the ground level.
This isn’t something we normally think about when speaking about criminal justice, and this is actually a problem. Empathy should be one of the most crucial traits anyone working in criminal justice should have. Working in criminal justice ultimately means that you’ll have to deal with people in need, and it’s essential that you be able to empathize and connect within them.
“Traditionally, we’d use a zero-tolerance approach and heavy police presence when going into neighborhoods. While it did reduce crime, it was only temporary as trust became eroded,” said police chief Eric Jones. “We will never be able to truly reduce crime without building trust in the community,” he added.
Officers who are empathetic are better able to build bonds with their communities, which benefits their department and other officers as well. Those are often the ones involved in outreach programs, and those making an actual difference on the ground and in the communities they serve.
These are just some of the traits you’ll need if you want to have a successful career in criminal justice. The good news is that some of those can always be developed, and it’s never too late to start.