Police Services (Surveillance Operatives) – Success Factors


Successful recruitment, selection and development of surveillance operatives had historically proven to be a complex and a difficult task. Often the set of competencies and attributes required for the role are vastly different and generally non-transferable from the previous and existing set of skills obtained by operatives in the police services.  Despite the rigorous and intensive training course and assessment, history has shown that the process does not provide an acceptable yield of successful course participants within Australian jurisdictions.

Standard personality, attitudes and cognitive assessments often fail to identify the difference between potentially successful and unsuitable surveillance operatives, due to the fact that strong IQ (i.e. mental reasoning) as well as a specific set of personality characteristics are less relevant to the job. Abilities and factors that were identified as critical in identifying successful surveillance operatives are listed below:

  • Communication
  • Planning
  • Focused and Sustained Attention
  • Mental Shifting and Cognitive Flexibility
  • Multi-tasking
  • Resilience
  • Alertness and Responsiveness
  • Driving performance under pressure






The Success Factors Police Services (Surveillance Operatives) test set comprises of the following dimensions and abilities:


Ability Definition

Duration in minutes

Multi-limb Co-ordination under pressure

Capacity to carry on executing physical tasks requiring hand and feet responses (e.g. urgent duty driving and performing compensatory manoeuvres at high speeds)

approx. 6

Situational awareness

Capacity to scan the visual environment and pick up relevant targets (e.g. scanning the traffic environment such as road signs, signals, status of the “target” and taking the public’s welfare into consideration)

approx. 14


Capacity for a wide range of vocabulary and the ability to clearly, concisely and accurately inform  team members of changing events and actions, as well as accurate comprehension of verbal information provided by team members

approx. 8


Capacity to work effectively and maintain productivity across multiple task demands by efficiently coordinating, and prioritising the sequence of those based on importance and urgency (e.g. using information from the environment, radio communication, GPS and maps to set goals and priorities and update these regularly based on new information)

approx. 17

Short-term memory (visual)

Capacity to store, and retrieve newly acquired visual information (e.g. remembering specific facts about the “target” and other events in order to visual and respond appropriately to those)

approx. 13

3D Mental rotation / visualisation

Capacity to create or form a mental image of objects in space (e.g. visualising the location of the “target” and other team members in order to position or drive the vehicle in the most optimal direction, as well as to read static and dynamic maps)

approx. 18

Sustained Attention

Capacity to manage alertness and arousal over an extended period of time (e.g. transitioning between periods of low stimulation and hyper alertness while effectively managing energy)

approx. 32

Total length of the test set

approx. 108