The late Dr. George Thompson helped bring law enforcement to the modern age with concepts in communication. He had a knack at being able to look at a problem, find the solution, and then teach the solution so us in law enforcement could understand. If any of you who read this are law enforcement instructors you understand the difficulty of teaching a new concept or idea to a bunch of law enforcement officers. He was the creator of Verbal Judo; you can still find his publications online. The basis of all his communication techniques started with five principles that he called universal truths. These truths should be the starting point of all law enforcement contacts.
They are as follows:
All people should be
· Treated with dignity and respect
· Asked rather than being told
· Educated or explain the reason for being asked
· Given options rather than threats
· Given a second chance
I truly believe in these concepts and if I have handled my interaction with someone with these five principles in mind then I can say I tried my best.
Treat everyone with dignity and respect is the first principle. This should be a given to all law enforcement professionals. You should start every shift and every contact with this in mind. Keeping this principle in mind will help reduce complaints against you and will make you a role model for coworkers and your community.
Asked someone rather than telling him or her to do something. This can be a tricky to continue to do and often I hear the Ask, Tell, Make model come out. “I asked him, then I told him and then I made him sit down”. The problem with that approach is it took you less than a minute to get to the making and all it caused was the person you were interacting with get upset. This approach extends the time you have to spend building rapport for future cooperation. Get in the habit of asking people to do things, unless safety is an issue there is no reason for you not to ask someone to complete a task.
I am not sure why we feel the need to not educated or explain the reason for our request in law enforcement. I think we get this idea that it is officer safety but all it does is get us into the argument of “because I said to do it”. If you have to tell someone to take their hands out of their pockets and they give you the angry look and ask why, explain it to them. “Well first off I don’t know you and often times people have knives in their pockets. I don’t want to get stabbed today or mistake you pulling out a knife from your pocket”. Did you give up safety by saying that, no. You set contexts for the person and if you are recording the contact or someone else is, there is no room for misunderstanding on why you asking them to do something. Educating people on our procedures and why we do things humanizes us and builds rapport quickly and the quicker you build rapport the quicker you gain compliance.
Giving options lets the person feel that they made the decision. You can easily convince a person into cuffs by giving them the options. You go to a convenience store about a disturbance, when you arrive you see a guy in an argument with the staff. Staff tells you they just want him to leave, but like normal he refuses now what? You can take him out kicking and screaming, get a use of force and be on a simple call for your whole shift or, give him options. “Sir unfortunately this business asked you to leave, you do though have a few good options. You can choose to leave now and we can all be done with this incident or I can place you in handcuffs and escort you out and make a report”.
The last is to give people a second chance. This applies to the above scenario. You asked someone to leave the store and they refused, so you gave the options. You now give them a second chance to comply and leave on their own. This kind of goes hand in hand with giving options, you are just allowing someone a second chance to save face with you and the public.
Ask a Doc-Ask a Cop: The Mental Health Minute